June 28, 2003

Today was supposed to be a restful day in preparation for Michele and girls trip to North Carolina. I suppose it was, but I got several things done. Not exactly what I wanted, but good stuff.


First, I began to rewire the house network. For various geeky reasons, I wanted to have my main PC see the internet with a static IP, not behind a firewall and also see into the network behind my firewall into the the other computer. This requires the install of a second network card and faith in my firewall software not to bridge the networks.

Don't tell me I should be behind the hardware firewall, I wants what I wants...

While monkeying around in the box to install the card I did a bit of cable maintenance and other tidying up.

I got the networks up and running and everything worked great, without issue and I could hit the Tivo from my main computer.

I went and did some other things like take the kids to the game store and lunch.

When we returned home I began to try to extract some video from the Tivo. The transfer started, and for some reason the computer blue-screened and rebooted. Windows XP never does this to me. Like OS X and linux, the OS is fairly rock solid with apps crashing, but rarely the OS dumping.

It keep happening and I looked up the specific error code. Ram Problems. Ram Problem? WTF? The RAM must have been knocked loose earlier int eh day I guessed. I reopened the case and reached in. The RAM was hot, almost too hot to touch. Something was wrong. The RAM I use has a frigging heatsink on it.

I touched the elaborate heat sink for the CPU and it was even hotter. Uh-oh. I checked the main CPU fan, and indeed, I had unknowingly unplugged the fan while doing my maintenance. I plugged it back in and rebooted. Everything was fine. It does make me happy that the comput can run half the day with no fan at all and the case closed. All my effort to put in good heat sinks was worth it.


The Tivo is now completely hacked. I've installed both TyStudio and TivoWeb.

With TyStudio I can extract video directly from the Tivo and convert it to usable video formats. This afternoon I turned an episode of Good Eats into an SVCD and an episode of Da Ali G Show into a DVD file.

With TivoWeb I can control my Tivo from a web interface. There's pretty much nothing I can't control with the TivoWeb interface.

All I need is the DVD burner and I'll be in heaven...


Michele needed a specific audio clip from a film. It was only available as a streaming RealAudio clip. In case you find yourself in a similar situation, you may need:

RealAudio to WAV Converter
WAV to MP3 Converter

Posted by michael at 09:38 PM
June 27, 2003
Almost to the weekend

The last few days have been busy with work and home activity. Michele has been more in volved with her quilt guild and got installed last night as one of th aofficers and is going to play a major role in next year's Glendale Quilt Show. I'm quite proud of her to get involved. She's always seem to shy away from these kind of things and is now jumping in with both feet.

Martin's still waiting for money from the house sale, and is still hanging out with us. Last night he made pizzas. He's a pro, and it shows. I've gotten him to play Return to Castle Wolfenstein. At first he dabbled, then I set him up on Michele's computer. Wednesday he played for 4 hours straight and yesterday about the same. I've got him practicing circle strafing and switching weapons via keyboard. He's avoided the bad habits like mouse-wheeling, mainly because I haven't told him about them.

It was fun to play back to back on the same server. I've never really been to a LAN, but I saw how being in the same room with a teammate can make a difference. I can only hope he will continue to play in Kansas City and we can meet up online when he moves.

Last night I installed the TurboNet card inthe Tivo and tested it out. It was simple and easy. I need to do a little rearranging of my home network to make things work the way I want going forward. I'll be buying a 100 baseT hub and running the Cat5 under the house before I'm done. I considered using WiFi, but James convinced me that if I'm going to do video extraction, I need 100 baseT. He's right.

OK, time to get ready for work. Have a good day.

Posted by michael at 07:25 AM
June 24, 2003
British Crime

I folded a ton of laundry tonight. While doing that, I watched the movie Mean Machine. I didn't know a thing about the film when it started. Turns out it's a British remake of The Longest Yard.

Nothing spectacular, but a fun movie to kill some time. The crew of folks I like from the Guy Ritchie films were in this and did a good job of playing the various roles.

I was confused on one point. There is some significance to wearing a brown leather jacket with sheepskin lining in Britain. The head mobster wore it in a important scene and the characters reacted to him wearing it. I'm not sure what it means though.

Any Brits care to explain?

The TurboNet card for my Tivo arrived today. Due to the laundry, I didn't have time to install it. Hopefully tomorrow.

I have an early meeting tomorrow at 7AM so it's goodnight for now.

Posted by michael at 11:08 PM
June 23, 2003
The Truth

I bow down to Griff over at Ultramicroscopic.

He is the dad-blogger I aspire to be. His latest post puts into graphics & words the experience of being a father of young children, while desperately trying to remain 25 and hip.

I had the chance to drink a few beers with him at SXSW and he's just as funny in person. Except when he got his bike stolen, at which point he was a bit sad and ready to kill someone.

Posted by michael at 08:58 AM
Grey Day

Southern California is having yet another grey day as the clouds linger overhead.

Last night's adventure in spyware removal was successful. I ran AdAware several times to purge the computers of the problem. What a pain in the ass.

Yesterday on my way back from the library I stopped by a new video store in town. Videotheque in South Pasadena is a DVD rental place specializing in "Foreign - Classic - Independent - Alternative - Rare Cinema". I was pretty impressed. The first thing you notice is that most of the store has the films organized by Director. How f*iing cool is that. The rest of the DVDs are organized by very specific genres. There was a British Crime area and a War area. I highly recommend checking it out.

Work today should be a little busy. We've got the Apple WWDC keynote this morning coming down via satellite and plenty of more work to do on the budgets. I hope Michele wins the lotto soon.

Posted by michael at 07:38 AM
June 22, 2003

I'm at my mother's house doing maintenance on the computers here.

I look into the Program Files and see GAIN. GAIN is Gator Advertising Information Network. Spyware.

Now I need to run the anti-spyware stuff to clean out the computers.

Spyware delenda est.

Posted by michael at 06:37 PM
June 21, 2003

It's Saturday morning and there is a light drizzle outside. In a few hours I'm heading off to Dodgers Stadium to watch the boys in blue beat the world champion Angels. It should be a good game and I get a chance to eat Dodger Dogs and drink big plastic cups of beer.

I finished up two books recently that I hadn't got around to reviewing yet.

In the Hall of the Martian King - John Barnes

The third book in the Jak Jinnaka series, this novel started off similar to the previous novels with Jak almost stumbling through the advenutre with little initiative and many pushes from outside. In the middle of the book, this changes where Jak actually takes charge and starts making things happen of his own accord. The first real tragedy of series occurs and the tone of the book changes dramatically. In the second half, the novel becomes a bit more philisophical and touches on the issue of the effect on society when long held truths are found to be false.

A good fast read, worth the paperback price. It will be interesting to see where the next novel takes us.

Promised Land - Cynthia Felice & Connie Willis

I've enjoyed Connie Willis's books in the past and found this book in a used book store for cheap. The story is really a romance in a sci-fi wrapper. Not that I dislike romances, but I'm used to sci-fi stories with different kinds of issues the characters are trying to resolve.

You'll find yourself at first angry with the protaganist, Delanna, and then excited as she changes her ways. The world they live in doesn't make a ton of sense, but it's believeable enough for the stories purposes.

The book is out of print, but if you see it at the library or a used book store it's worth putting on the shelf as an 'emergency reserve'.


I've been playing Planetside a bit and am really enjoying it. There is a new feature that allows for autogeneration of a stat picture of your character. Check it out.

The Planetside site generates the image nightly and once you put in the link, the image remains constant. They even have an XML feed of your stats so you can create whatever you want from the data. Looks like I'm gunna have to learn XML feeds one of these days.

Posted by michael at 10:34 AM
June 18, 2003

I'm sitting in Lucky Baldwin's waiting for anyone from the Weblog Meetup to show up.

Martin has been delayed by the people buying the house and is still trying to get here. I'm sitting here drinking by myself, waiting.

Why can't it be a little easier to do this kinda thing...

Posted by michael at 08:15 PM
June 17, 2003

Yes, I know I haven't posted recently. I've been busy.

Till I get my groove on, check out the following:

American public is very confused
Star Wars Kid Collection

Posted by michael at 11:42 PM
June 15, 2003
Images of the weekend

Q: What do you feed your children for breakfast on Saturday morning when their mother is away?
A: Bacon, buttermilk biscuit, candy corn, and a life saver.

Q: How many college graduates does it take to fillout the paperwork selling two cars?
A: Six
Posted by michael at 09:40 PM
Father's Day

Here's the best present I was given today:

Posted by michael at 11:29 AM
Tivo Answers

Many loyal Cruft readers had questions about the size of Tivo "hours" storage in relation to hard drive size. I have stolen this paragraph directly from the Weaknees site, a place you can buy upgrades to your Tivo.

How are the number of hours calculated on a TiVo?

TiVo standalone units (i.e., TiVos without a built-in DirecTV receiver) have four levels of recording quality. At the best recording quality, the rule of thumb is that the number of hours is equal to 0.35 times the number of gigabytes. At the lowest recording quality (basic), the number of TiVo recording hours is 1.2 times the number of gigabytes. Because drive sizes vary slightly (an 80 gigabyte drive may be 81.9 gigabytes or 80.0 gigabytes, for example), the exact number of hours in any given TiVo cannot be calculated precisely in advance. DirecTiVo units generally get about 0.875 hours per gigabyte of storage space. The hours reported on a DirecTiVo is a maximum amount; the actual number of hours yielded will vary based on the type of shows you record (eg. sports take up more space on a hard drive than do, say, soap operas, due to the amount of motion).

So, let's do the math here. We'll do the simple case first.

If Martin has a DirecTivo with a 40 GB drive, he should expect 35 hours (40 GB * 0.875 hr/GB = 35 hours). If Martin was to upgrade to a 120 GB drive, he should expect 105 hours (120 GB * 0.875 hr/GB = 105 hours)

If I have a standalone Tivo with a 30 GB drive that I use in High Quality mode, with a 30 GB hard drive there should be about 18 hours (30 GB * 0.6 hr/GB = 18 hr). If I upgraded to a 120 GB drive I roughly have 72 hours (120 GB * 0.6 hr/GB = 72 hr).

So the rough effect of my upgrade was to take me from 18 hours to 72 hours of recording time. The actual amount of storage will vary depending on the quality I choose to use for each show. Most of the kids shows record at Medium quality and most of our favorite shows record at Best Quality.

Make sense?

Posted by michael at 09:05 AM
June 14, 2003
Computer woes

Not me mind you, but many people are having them recently.

Several of our family friends are having trouble with computers (1 Mac and 1 PC) and people like Ernie and Dave are having them too.

Almost inevitably the question of switching operating systems raises it's head in these times. PC people consider Macs and Mac people consider PCs.

The truth is that all computers have trouble. I'm a trained engineer and run a damn IT department and I still have trouble with things. How non-techical people manage is beyond me.

I get calls all the time to help with friend and family computers when problems pop up. Usually the problem is PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair), but I can't really blame people for problems.

Computers are confusing. Someone is always trying to see you something or take over your computer. It's difficult for people to know what's safe and what's not. Whay software will solve my problem? What to believe?

When ever I look at someone else's computer, they almost always have stuff installed that cripples their computer. Spyware, unnecessary apps, inappropriate settings, no anti-virus, no firewall, etc.

The truth is to run a computer that has good performance, reliablity and security, it takes a bit of knowledge and work. It's a constant struggle for me to maintain good working condition on the computers in the house. Updates, patches, scans, they all need to be done.

Most people simply don't want to do this. Mac, linux, or Windows, you need to be vigilant to maintain the computer. Most people don't want to be vigilant and with good reason. It's a pain in the ass.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. The truth is that every lawn has problems. Switching operating systems isn't going to solve the fundemental issue that computers are still not household appliances.

The fault lies in two places. The people that make invasive web pages that hijack your computer, and the operating system makers. Switching brand of computers won't solve the issues about computer reliability. Linux, Mac, and Windows users all encounter problems regularly and I hear about it. They all get the job done, but there is no 'best' solution.

Switch computers if you want to try something new or like the hardware, but don't expect the world of computing to get easier just because you buy a different brand.

Posted by michael at 12:07 PM
June 13, 2003
I've had enough...

Too many people are lazy when it comes to sharing links on places like Metafilter and Slashdot. They post links to places like the New York Times that require registration to view the article. People seem to accept this, but it's fargin' wrong.

There is a simple way to distribute links to stories at places like the NYTimes.com without registering all your friends.

Follow along, it's simple.

If you are reading the article, you already are registered and can view the site. Take a look at the stuff around the article.

Notice the link that says "Email the article"? Every news page has this link. They all want to grab the email addresses of you and your friends.

So follow this link and email to yourself at some free webmail host that you have an account with for no real use. Mail yourself the article.

Check your webmail, and OMG, there's an email from the newspaper.

Open the email and lookie there, a link directly to the story that bypasses the login/registration stuff.

Paste this link into your HTML and you get the story without logging in. Your audience will thank you for taking 2 extra minutes to get a good link rather than a bad link.

Don't be a lazy internet citizen. Make a little effort and people will appreciate it.

Posted by michael at 03:56 PM
June 12, 2003

Tonight I finished the Tivo upgrade.

After spending two hours making sure I was going to enter the correct command, I expanded the Tivo and everything was good. As you can see, I have plenty of storage now.

The thing that freaked me out was that the original 30GB drive literally smoked today. I had it hooked up to the computer. When I powered up the computer with the old drive and the new drive, the old drive smoked. Literally. One of the surface mount chips glowed bright orange in a classic failure mode with smoke.

This made me nervous that I had done something wrong. I guess it was just the old drive commiting suicide when it learned the new drive was working.

Posted by michael at 11:13 PM
June 11, 2003

I was reading Joi Ito's Web and saw a post about Blogstreet's thinking about sorting out 'What's a weblog post' and what's not and how to anaylze posts.

Interesting thinking and a nice little hack, but in the bigger picture, it shows the problem with people being too close to blogging. The problem is that they can't seem to see that a person's weblog content may not be inside a Content Management System (CMS) like Movable Type, Blogger, and Radio. Or that the content on a weblog may not be in the form of a post.

I saw a lot ot this thinking at SXSW. The idea that if you can just gather up all the weblog posts in the world and index them, you will have captured the blogosphere in totality.

I call bullshit on this.

Many, many people don't put all their content into their CMS and post as a 'traditional' blog post. Look over at my front page. The Cruft Adventures are all links to full html pages. Those pages are the most hit places on this site. I get plenty of hits to direct weblog entries, but the top pages are How to wash a baseball cap and How to make a cantenna.

Theoretically, I could have put this info into a blog entry but there are two large limitations to putting all content directly into your CMS/blog post system. First, the content has to fit in with the scheme of your front page. You are limited on what you can do in the post. With a a fresh clean page of HTML, you can do anything you want, without limitation. Second, CMS/weblog permalinks are not really permanent links. They are links that last until you switch CMSs or time makes the system you use antiquated. Some may say, I'll always use MT or Radio, but it just ain't so. In 10 years we'll be using something completely new and unimagined now. When you move your content to Apple's new iBlog in 2013, they will have a new set of permalinks.

A weblog is more than just a set of posts from your CMS. In all deference to Anil Dash, a weblog is more than what can be shoved though an XML feed to an aggregator.

The more that the big thinkers in the blogosphere rabbit hole into CMS -> XML feed -> aggregator thinking, the more they exclude people from their purview. Many will say "If you don't have an XML feed, you aren't part of the blogosphere." That's like saying, "If it isn't printed in a newspaper or magazine, it isn't journalism. Those weblogs aren't journalism because they don't publish in the formats I like."


Posted by michael at 07:12 AM
Working Tivo

I woke up early and walked into the study to find the drive copy was complete.

I placed the new drive back in the Tivo and carefully reconnected it to the TV system.

Power was applied and happily the Tivo booted up just fine. All my content is intact and everything appears normal. My original Series 1 30GB Tivo now has a 120GB drive in it! The Tivo only thinks it a 30GB drive though.

Tonight I 'grow' the drive partition to the full 120 GB size. Hopefully it will go just as smooth.

Posted by michael at 06:11 AM
Still waiting

It's two hours later and the hard drives are still cloning.

Go to sleep and get up early to finish? Or stay up and finish before sleep?

Posted by michael at 12:07 AM
June 10, 2003
Upgrading the Tivo

As I type this, my Tivo drive is being mirrored to a new 120GB hard drive. If everything goes successfully, tonight I will have the new drive installed and working back in the Tivo.

*knocks on wood*

If you want to try this yourself, go read the Hinsdale How-To on upgrading Tivos.

Posted by michael at 09:56 PM
June 09, 2003

My brother mention that there were a few things out of date on my site. So I've fixed a few things up here and there. Here are a few of the changes:

My mother's weblog, egads, she's 60+ and obsessed with blogging...

I linked to a story from 1997 about coffee, wow I've been posting stories on the net for almost six years.

Please let me know if you see any problems or have any questions. Most of the changes were subtle, but you never know what I may have messed up.

Posted by michael at 09:29 PM
June 08, 2003
I got that Smappy feeling

Some people want to know what Smap is. Well, here's me and some Smap.

As far as I can tell, Smap is both a Japanese Soft Drink and a Japanese pop band. I have not summoned the courage to drink Smap yet, but I will soon and report back.

This is what victory looks like.

That's my new overnight parking permit that arrived in the mail. I can't wait to change some other ordinance in South Pas.

In ohter news, Heidi is using the cool little buttons too!

Posted by michael at 01:33 PM
June 07, 2003
Why do I leave my house?

Summer is rapidly approaching and I've decided to put a gable attic fan in the house to clear the hot air out. I looked up the various models on the net and saw a good deal at Home Depot. The web site said the local store had them in stock.

I drove over there and found the roofing section. The one gable fan they had was out of it's box and had obviously been returned with parts missing. WTF? I looked around for another sealed box, but it was not to be found.

Empty handed, I drove home. It took me 4 minutes to buy the fan online. Free shipping don'tcha know! Sometimes I don't know why I leave home...

Posted by michael at 04:58 PM
June 06, 2003

Jake over at 8bitJoystick did a much better review of the Animatrix than I did, go read his. The whole site is good, so poke around after you read the review.

The local city paper is online. You can read the details of the Great Tree Debate at southpasadenareview.com. In this weeks paper version, there is a photo of Michele and I at the school open house on our picnic blanket. It doesn't get much more small town that getting your picture in the paper when you are simply eating dinner.

The price of DVD burners keeps dropping. Today's Fry's ad shows a DVD+R/+RW on sale for $169. If only it was -R/-RW I'd be good to go. The + type don't read in either of our DVD players.

Time for work. Mabe I'll stop on the way and pick up a Moroccan Mint Tea Latte. Mmmm, tasty.

Posted by michael at 07:19 AM
June 05, 2003

Do to a combination of allergies, nausea, and general feeling like crap I took the day off from work to rest at home. Ever since I ended up in the ICU after feeling sick for a while, I've tried to get rest when I feel bad.

This morning I finished up watching Reign of Fire, the dragons in England flick. It was OK, but left me a bit disappointed. The characters were quite over the top, but the storytelling didn't match the characters. The story was realistic, but the it didn't match up to the people on screen.

After that I watched part of the Animatrix DVD. I had seen part of the it ont he web, but have the DVD is much better. The animation is great and shows several different styles. If only other movies had such enveloping back stories, it would be wonderful.

Supposedly Lucas is doing some sort of Clone Wars animation before the next Star Wars movie limps to the screen, but I'm just not that interested. Lucas is a great writer and art director, but his movie direction is the suck.

I did some work email but tried to get some rest rather than just work at home instead of at the office. Michele bought me Yoshinoya for lunch, so I even had comfort food.


John Ashcroft is trying to expand the Patriot Act. When is America going to wake up to this demagogue and the peril he poses to our basic liberties.

Kill the Patriot Act.

Call your Senators and Representatives. Explain how this single issue will cost them your vote and your money. Forget about calling the White House, they don't care what the American people think and are willing to lie to our faces.

Posted by michael at 09:00 PM
June 04, 2003

For the last two days my stomach has been queasy after I eat. Nasty feeling, like I'm going to hurl, but I don't want to hurl.

Maybe I haven't been gaming enough. Yeah, that's it. I need to play more games...

Posted by michael at 08:44 PM
June 03, 2003

I'm feeling quite Smappy today. Kinda sick, but not bad enough to stay home.

Stopped by Best Buys with the lunch crew and picked up the Animatrix DVD for myself and the Castle in the Sky DVD for the girls. During the afternoon I still felt crappy and was pleased when the end of the day arrived. Spending my waking hours looking at 20 pages of a 'Chart of Accounts' is suck ass.

On the way home Michele told me the Diggs were coming over for dinner. Sweet. Hanging with the Diggs is always a good time.

Michele made some kind of baked zucchini with meat/something filling and grilled up some filets outside. It was good chatting with Martin, but I felt a little down. As loyal Cruft readers may know, the Diggs are leaving town for a brief respite from La-La Land in Kansas. I know that it's for the best, but it still sucks. The Diggs are our best friends and have been a fixture in our lives since for the last six years.

Imagining that they won't be around to hang with by 4th of July is hard to wrap my head around. I want to wake up from a bad dream.

Michele always says 'Change is good, but it is hard'. True. It's going to be hard.

Posted by michael at 09:09 PM
June 02, 2003

I just finished watching the first episode of The Wire, the best show on HBO (and TV in general for that matter). The episode is on the Tivo and I'm faced with wanting to keep it for a while.

I've played around with recording the video into the computer and futzing around with it until I can record it to DVD or VCD. It's a bit of a pain.

Today at the office I was talking to my boss about DVD recorders and we discussed that how the simple ones should go for much cheaper this Christmas season. I looked up the prices and was suprised. If you look at the Panasonic line, you see a bunch listing for $500 list. A few searches and I find them on sale for under $400. Under $400 buck!

They operate just like a VCR for recording. Put your blank DVD in the recorder, hit Record, and boom, you got a DVD copy of your show.

Tivo + DVD recorder = nirvana

Posted by michael at 10:37 PM

Here are a few pictures from our weekend trip.

Michele at the La Jolla Beach tidepools

Me next to a cairn built by Andrew Goldsworthy. There is nothing holding the cairn together, not supports, mortars, or other structure. Amazing.
Posted by michael at 12:02 PM