here comes the vacation

It is finally here.  We are leaving tomorrow to Florida to do Disney with the kids.  We’ve rented a condo with a pool and are going to share it with my brother and sister in law and their daughter.  It will be great.  As some of you know, my Mom had a massive stroke back in November.  She is doing much better but this will be the first time I’ve taken time off of work for more than a couple of days for our family.    Things are moving along for Mom and her recovery is certainly underway, but work and family life has also been stressful for both me and my wife.  So we really need this vacation.  We said goodbye to my Mom tonight and took her to Walmart one last time and we are just about ready to get the heck out of Dodge.

This has been on interesting week for me at work this week.  At the beginning of the week I was unsure and a little nerviuos, honestly.    But today, after a week of meetings and getting to know my new peers, I am totally jazzed.  I really feel like I belong and that I can really make a difference going forward.  I can’t really get into it just yet, but I think I am going to be very happy and productive.   I also see that I have a lot to learn but even so, that is very very exciting to me.  I love to learn and tinker, and I think I am in my zone.  Holy crap, that sounds pretty corny.  Whatever.

So, we will be using the Mio c310x I’ve been talking about.  One of the things I’ve been trying to get my noodle around is  with this nifty thing.  I tell you, the Mio is way more accurate and fast (getting a lock-on) then my older eTrex, and it just so happens that there are a dozen or so Geocaches within walking distance from my office.  But, even though the Mio has a “pedestrian” mode, there are additional tweaks I have found to make Geocaching easier or better or whatever you want to call it.    When I get back (or even when I am on vacation, Internet connection none withstanding),  I’ll post what I consider to be the optimized Geocaching mode for the Mio c310x.  Chat with you later.

Women Live Longer

my mio c310x

I finally got a Mio c310x. Surely you’ve already heard about how hackable this GPS unit is and all the super slick things you can do with it. And hacking it was really easy.

I’ve had a hand-help GPS unit for a while now. I have a Garmin eTrex Venture. It’s okay and I sure used it a lot for Geocaching, but I’ve been really dying for a auto-based GPS unit. I had to travel to Dallas with a few people from work and a friend brought his Mio c310x he got on Black Friday 2006 for ~$150. I was so impressed with it. My sister-in-law had a Magellen c320 (I think) and I played with that a little when she first got it, but I liked the Mio and its internal, rechargeable battery.

Shortly after that, I heard Clark Howard talk about how useful a mobile auto-based GPS unit was and how cheaply they could be found for. He made a lot of sense! Taken from his website:

GPS units are cheap and easy to use

Do you remember when GPS units were something only the very wealthy could afford? A built-in unit was about $2,000 and a portable unit was about $800. Times have changed quite a bit. Clark recently bought a portable unit for less than $300 and it’s possible to find them for under $200. The more expensive units will tend to have the hard drive built-in to the unit, while the less expensive ones have an SD chip. And there are good and bad factors to both. But they are so simple to use and they have a memory of all of your addresses. These are hot gifts this holiday, so think about one for your loved one. Or wait even longer and they are sure to go down even more.

My wife finally gave me the go ahead to get it after I sold some old Directv receivers, so I went to Fry’s with the kids and picked one up. Of course they tried to sell me the 3-year extended warranty. When I stopped laughing I told them I wasn’t interested. I paid for it and got the kids in their seats and opened it up. It had a 75% charge out of the box and I used it to navigate me home.

I breifly took a look at the manual, but I’m a touchy-feely sort of guy so I’ve been playing with it six ways to Sunday. It isn’t perfect and now that I’ve played with it for some time, I am very happy with it. I don’t know if any other > $200 GPS units come close but I am very happy with it.

Out of the box, you can play MP3’s with it. Hoo-hum. The software that came with it reminds me of the old Sony software they had for mini-disks; not very useful. But there are hacks out there you can really have a lot of fun with.

The best way to move files back and forth is with Microsoft’s ActiveSync which is for PDA’s running Windows CE. This works flawlessly. Couple this with an external card reader, (the Mio is usb 1.1), and you can be rocking and rolling in no time.

One of the negatives you’ll hear about the Mio is that the maps are just over two years old. Still, I haven’t had any problems yet getting around Atlanta and North Georgia. The maps have been good without any real big noticeable problems.

I put the included suction-cup mount in our van and use the Mio on my lap or the passenger seat when I am in the other car. It picks up the GPS signals really good. I can even get a lock inside the house. I don’t quite understand it, but I like it. It makes it easy for planning routes beforehand.

An SD card is key for having any fun with this unit. You can put the unlocking script on the SD card and you can backup and export your track logs. I am able to import my track logs into Google Earth. That’s pretty cool if you ask me. I’ve always liked so see where I went overlayed on the Google! maps.

Once you hack your Mio c310x you can do any of the following:

  • Play movies
  • Add voices
  • Edit and plan POI’s on your PC
  • Play games
  • Install TomTom or other nav software
    • The general opinion is that MioMap is better than TomTom
  • Use ActiveSync
  • Access the Windows CE environment
  • Change skins

It is just a fun thing to tinker around with. My sister-in-law just ordered one from Frys.com for $189 plus tax (free shipping). I’ll help her get it all set up.

One of the coolest things that I like is that iG0 released a beta application that will allow you to edit/import/export/sync via ActiveSync POI’s (points-of-interest). My sister-in-law and I are both Realtors so this will be very handy when showing properties.

Here’s a list of the links I have used to make it this far:

I forgot one very important link:

moment of truth for the cheap-o htpc

Well, I was going to my bro-in-laws house and I was going to bring the PC I was working on for him. I put a PCI video card in the PC that had, (what I thought), was RCA/Composite video out. When we hooked up the PC to his TV it was clear something wasn’t right. We could make out the boot up sequence on the TV but the sync was off. A quick web search suggested we needed an adapter of some sort.

Now, the video card in this PC has VGA, DVI, and Composite on it. I assumed that the composite connection was an output, but from what I read on the Internet, it might actually be video out. I didn’t buy this card. It was sent to me by my Dad who sent me his old computer. I assumed it would just work.

So, my brother-in-law ran out to Radio Shack and we talked with a guy there who really knew something. He was very helpful but they didn’t have what we needed. He understood our mission; watch a German soccer match on the TV via a PC using MythTv without our wives fully understanding how much time and money we put into this without spending any money. I was trying to finish the installation of MythTV on this PC while there were two 2 1/2 years olds, two six year olds, and one 10 year old running around. It was tough.

My brother-in-law is German and signed up for this new service he’s very happy about:

The $64,000,000 question is how to watch the recorded videos on his TV. I think with this old PC I am working on, we are probably 95% of the way there. Although, at this point, I think it might be easy/cheapest to get an xbox and put XBMC on it.

the music all around us

As I mentioned before, I usually listen to my iPod while I put our son to sleep. Tonight, we have guests in from out of town so my son is sleeping with us in our bed. I had my iPod and he wanted to hear what I was listening to. He is six and in his kindergarten class, they were playing Bob Marley and he liked it a lot. We listened to a R.L. Burnside song, then a Midnight Oil song came on. He didn’t like it at first then he said he liked it a lot. Later, as I was skipping songs I thought he might not like, we hit another Midnight Oil song and he wanted to hear it. I told him the band was from Australia and it was a far away place. I also told him I saw them in concert once. That got me thinking about all the concerts I had gone to.

Laugh as you might, the first concert I had ever been to was Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I think I was in 8th grade or something. I had their LP and the concert was great. I remember I really enjoyed it. So, here’s a little list of concerts I had gone to. I might make this a little more prominent in the future. This is just a running list, so don’t expect to be in order.

  • Frankie Goes to Hollywood
  • 7 Seconds
  • Dag Nasty
  • Circle Jerks
  • Butthole Surfers
    • Multiple times
  • The Tombstones
  • Drivin’ & Crying
  • B.A.L.L.
  • Das Damen
  • Morrissey
  • 10,000 Maniacs
  • Dead Can Dance
  • Midnight Oil
  • Skinny Puppy
    • Backstage and met the band
  • Front 242
    • Backstage and met the band
  • The Fall
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  • The First and best Lollapalooza
    • Rollins Band
      • Saw them before
    • Nine Inch Nails
      • When they were still small
    • Butthole Surfers
      • Saw them before
    • Ice-T
      • somewhat entertaining
    • Living Color
      • I fell asleep after many beers
    • Siouxsie & the Banshees
      • The tour was good to her
    • Jane’s Addiction
      • OMFG!
  • Kiss
  • The Cult
  • Iggy Pop
  • My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult
    • Before they sold out
  • Depeche Mode
    • in 2006
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Who
  • The Cure
  • Ween
    • Several times
  • The Pixies
  • Stereolab
  • The Wedding Present
    • Several Times
  • Robyn Hitchcock
  • The Cramps
    • Maybe three times
  • The Fleshtones
  • Stray Cats
  • Brian Setzer Orchestra
  • Flat Duo Jets
  • Gwar
  • Goober and Peas
  • Lime Spiders
  • Mojo Nixon
    • atleast twice
  • Southern Culture on the Skids
    • Countless times
  • Neil Young
  • Crowded House
    • Private Album release party with three open bars! Man oh man!
  • Madonna
    • A gift for my wife, but I had a great time, too!
  • Ministry

People I had a chance to see, but didn’t for some lame reason, and now regret it:

  • Lou Reed
  • The Pogues
    • yes, of course with Shane!
  • Sisters Of Mercy
  • The Smiths

People who I would have beaten up if I saw them back then:

  • Rick Astley

I am sure I’ll think of more as time goes on. And there were a slew of little bands in the various bars and clubs in Atlanta.

i’m coming home, baby.

That last post about the Cisco 7960 wore me out. I needed a couple of days away from the blog. Whew!

Tonight as I was putting our son to bed, I was listening on to some music on my iPod. I’ve made some pretty extensive use of the Smartplaylists and have a list that rotates out 50 songs at a time of five stars. Lately, I’ve been enjoying the music I’ve been hearing, but it wasn’t grabbing me by my throat. But tonight, I was hearing some songs I hadn’t heard in a long time and it was good.

The first time I had ever heard of Mel Tormé was on Night Court. Harry Anderson had a thing for ol’ Mel and I remember that Mel had a few cameos on the show. I liked Harry Anderson and therefore I might like Mel Tormé. Or so the saying goes…

Mel Tormé

I heard a song Mel did at some point. It was unbelievable how good this song was. The title was “Coming Home, Baby” and was recorded in 1962. This was a great song and the complexity of it is amazing. Mel singing the narrative and the backup singers singing the second voice… hoo boy, it’s hot. I think I got this song on one of those “Cocktail Lounge” Cd’s. I love it. The song is basically Mel saying that he’ll be home soon, and the backup singers saying they/she want him home as soon as possible, but then Mel says that he’ll be home later than he planned. I had heard this song on a Herbie Mann record, (yes, record, I have have the vinyl LP), and I liked the song a lot when I first heard it, but as you may know… Herbie Mann plays the flute, so there is no vocals. When I first heard Mel’s version, I thought that this was one of the best songs I had ever heard. It is really quite good and I highly recommend it.

Next, a familiar artist came up, Nick Cave. When I was in college, one of my first jobs was in a record shop. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was the first CD promo I got to take home. No one else knew who he was and since then I was hooked, (I think that must have been 1990). His songs have moved away from the dark and scary to the place where he’s speaking from the heart. The song was “What can I give you.” It is a very moving song and I think of my wife every time I hear it.

After that, I heard “The Wanderer” by Johnny Cash and U2. A great song. I’ve always like Johnny Cash and I think the Rick Rubin stuff in Johnny’s later years is outstanding. If memory serves me correctly, I think this song was in the Wim Wenders film, Far Away, So Close which was the sequel to Wings of Desire. Wings of Desire was a movie I saw a very long time ago when I was in college. I still love that movie and get irritable whenever anyone compares it to “City of Angels.”

Man, I’ve had Firefox crash twice while I was posting this, (granted, I was doing quite a bit of other stuff on my PC), so I think I might follow up to this post tomorrow. Good night!

cisco 7960 and trixbox

I’ve been able to borrow a brand spankin’ new Cisco 7960 SIP phone to play around with with my Trixbox server. This appears to be a really nice phone with a lot of features and a quality product. The phone seems to be pre-provisioned with my company’s settings and I am trying to figure out a way to “unlock” it to use with my Trixbox server.

I would consider this an advanced topic for myself since I don’t often get a chance to get my hands on cool hardware like this. The Trixbox server has some tftp files pre-installed but nothing really specific or the required provisioning files for my situation. The Cisco phone wants to phone home to the preconfigured tftp server. Sniffing the traffic and spoofing DNS is trivial but still a lot of work that I don’t need to do if I can figure out how to unlock this thing. I did find these links that appear to be useful, at least initially.

Obviously, I need to get into the details, but as I do, I’ll post my results.

another htpc update

What a pain in the ass. I’ve been working on this every night. I was finally able to get get Ubuntu installed on this PC by the method using Knoppix as described before. But I forget to add a regular user, (since root can’t log into gdm), and I still have some issues to work out with grub.

When the PC boots up, I get the grub menu, but it is like it doesn’t see the menu1st file. I don’t know if I missed a step or fumble-fingered something, but I can type in the various things to get it to boot up at the grub menu:

grub> root (hd0,0)

grub> kernel /vmlinuz root=/dev/hda1

grub> initrd /initrd.img

grub> boot

And it boots up fine. Regardless, I am upgrading Ubuntu 6.06 to 6.10 so it’s taking some time to update all the various packages. I have to make this newbie-proof since when I give this to my bro-in-law he’s a complete linux-newbie. Plus this has to pass the wife-approval-factor.

I was able to score an eval PCI wireless card for this project. Ubuntu sees it, but since I have a hardwire, I haven’t spent much time in trying to get it working. I’ll post more details about the card when I get a little further down this road.

But it is going well considering. I feel like I got a chance to get back into Linux after being away for a while. So it has been a fun and good experience.

austin powers is the snake to my mongoose…

I was watching Austin Powers the other night. I love those movies. As Bob pointed out in the comments on the Invisible Sandwich post, I do get a good bit of laughter from low brow humor. The funny thing is, when Austin Powers first came out, I thought it would be dumb. I didn’t think I liked that sort of humor. My mom and sister encouraged me to see it and they were right. I loved it. I was hooked.

Looking back, I remember I saw a movie when I was in high school. I saw it at one of the first “parties” I went to where no adults were around. I don’t know how many people saw this movie, but I still think it was really funny.

The user comments on imbd sums it up pretty good. 1984 was a big year for me as I began to form my identity. I think I probably saw this in 1988 or so since we had it on VHS. Talk about low brow humor, this movie had it all. I am still laughing as I type this. I agree that it is temping to highlight certain scenes but I think if I did and you hadn’t seen the movie, you just wouldn’t get it since it would be out of context.

This movie was a hidden gem, and growing up I came across other hidden gems. I used to work at a record shop when I was in college and we rented movies. I got to see a lot of really good movies during that time. One of the things that I found somewhat interesting is the connections you could find amongst several movies. I was turned on to Jim Jarmusch in college. He is still one of my favorite film makers. Using him as a starting point, there are connections in various ways between, Joe Strummer, Dick Rude, Alex Cox, Tom Waits, David Johansen, John Lurie, Nick Cave, Neil Young, Iggy Pop, The Pogues, Elvis Costello, and other actors who have been in various movies with the above people. Aside from the movies, there is other evidence, like The Sons of Lee Marvin and the excellent “Fishing with John” series.

Fishing with John: John and Dennis Hopper

Let me get back on track here for a minute with the funny movies that I have seen over the years. Honestly, I could go on and on about good movies, but I started talking about low brow humor and here I am now talking about Indie films and conspiracy theories. If you’ve made it this far, I apologize.

Okay, so back to the low brow. I’ve never really enjoyed movies like Fast Times or Porky’s. I think I like the low brow with a certain level of intelligence behind it. Animal House was like that. It was low brow alright, but it was put together intelligently and was done well. A movie that I happened to catch on the premium movie channels was:

  • EuroTrip

Despite the alluring, yet misleading cover on the website, I found this movie to be a real surprise. First it was really well done. The story was interesting and situations the characters found themselves in was gut busting funny for me. I liked it so much, I found it used at a rental store, (when I first got a DVD player, the first previously viewed DVD I bought was Duece Bigalow for $1. I still maintain it was the best $1 I ever spent!). What was interesting about this movie, given the humor, was the attention to detail. This movie came out well before Pope Paul John II passed away. And in the movie, they did this whole scene around everyone mistakenly thinking the Pope died. I followed the Pope’s death and the appointment of the new Pope pretty closely and watched the movie afterward, they pretty much got it right. It is a fun movie, but my Dad said it was too much for him.

tech sundays

Today (and a little bit of yesterday) was good with my tech goodies. With the DST situation, my hacked Tivos were about to have some problems. Yesterday they flashed up a message that said something like:

DST is three weeks early and your Tivo will work just fine, but the time displayed will be an hour off and any manually added recordings will need to be adjusted.

At work, there has been a mad dash to update all the machines that are affected by the DST change. My FreeBSD and linux boxes are all okay. So, last night I found the following link for my Directv tivos:

Hot damn! This worked flawlessly. For those of you that don’t know, if you have a Directv Series II tivo and have hacked it, you can’t have it dial in for its updates… otherwise any downloaded updates will whack your hacks and you have to start all over again. So I, and many many people, can’t simply have the DTiVo dial in and get the updates. You’ll have to do it manually. This worked nicely.

While I was at it, I also upgraded “tivowebplus” to version 2.0 which is a release candidate. I actually had to “downgrade” to 1.3.0 from 1.3.1. I can tell already I need to reinstall hackman. That’s easy (if you have done it before).

I also have an update on my cheapo HTPC. The CDROM/IDE drive issue never worked out. But I did find this link to install Ubuntu via Knoppix. This worked good, but I must have foobarred the grub portion since I am getting kernel panics when booting. I’ll have to monkey with it later, but I did spend a good bit of time on it this weekend.

Here’s some other “advanced” ways to install Ubuntu:

I also got some “eval” networking gear from a person in my office. Therefore I think I might be able to help my brother-in-law with his networking issue and the ultimate location of this HTPC. More on that as I work on it and his situation.

I’ve been thinking what’s the best thing to do with the gear I got from the company. I really want to do an honest eval, but the challenge is trying to come up with real world situations. I’ll sleep on it and see what comes up in my head in the morning.