January 26, 2005
Budweiser Extra

When time permits, I try to take Michele for coffee in the mornings after the kids are off to school. She likes 7-Eleven coffee, so that's where we go.

I've taken a break from caffeine for a bit and today I was wandering around while she made her coffee/hot chocolate concoction. Scanning the fridges, I saw this:

Yep, you read it right. Beer with caffeine, ginseng, guarana extract, and natural flavor.

Yes, Budweiser Extra has hit the market. Why? I have no idea, but someone at Anheuser-Busch thinks America needs caffienated beer.

Of course, you can count on the Cruft Labs to test this out for you.

I poured a tall glass of 'B to the E' and took a nice swig.

In a word, it is foul.

Truly a triumph of conceptual marketing over common sense. Bud Extra tastes something akin to beer with a Flintstone's vitamin ground up in it. An amazingly terrible taste that is nothing like beer.

Avoid this product at all costs, except if you want to play a practical joke on someone.

Posted by michael at 08:37 PM
January 25, 2005
Speed up Firefox

A fraternity brother sent me this tip. It may be old news, but for me, it worked great to speed up the already fast Firefox browser if you have broadband.

1.Type "about:config" into the address bar and hit return. Scroll down and look for the following entries:


Normally the browser will make one request to a web page at a time. When you enable pipelining it will make several at once, which really speeds up page loading.

2. Alter the entries as follows:

Set "network.http.pipelining" to "true"

Set "network.http.proxy.pipelining" to "true"

Set "network.http.pipelining.maxrequests" to some number like 30. This means it will make 30 requests at once.

3. Lastly right-click anywhere and select New-> Integer. Name it "nglayout.initialpaint.delay" and set its value to "0". This value is the amount of time the browser waits before it acts on information it recieves.

Sites that loaded slowly in the past pop up quickly now.

Posted by michael at 08:31 PM

Here you can see HDTV being recieved the way it was meant to be, with rabbit ears antenna.

Yes, the picture that good.

Yes, regular TV sucks in compairison.

Yes, I'll have more to say once I get the DirecTV HD setup running.

Posted by michael at 07:59 AM
January 23, 2005

In a sling, originally uploaded by Argyle.

Zoe slipped a fell on the sidewalk. Looks like a minor fracture in her forearm. We'll know more tomorrow when she goes to the ortho doctor.

Posted by michael at 09:43 PM
January 21, 2005
Always look on the bright side

My brother Matt, who quit his weblog last year, made a nice little "Post-Inaugural e-greeting..."

Hi all...

Ok, so this started out as my holiday e-greeting, but December was
kind of rough for me, so it got bumped to being a "New Years"
e-greeting, but that didn't happen either... So I ultimately turned
this into my post-Inaugural-blues e-greeting...


Hope you get a smile out of it... Feel free to pass it along to any
bitter, jaded, or depressed progressives out there...

Best wishes...
- Matt

Take a look and I'm sure you'll get a laugh out of it.

Posted by michael at 09:35 AM
January 20, 2005

I would have preferred that the President took a cue from his predcessors.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
Posted by michael at 08:16 PM
January 18, 2005
Woke up to a war

I turned on the computer today and an instant message popped up to tell me I was the center of a war.

Now, my mother likes to see my name in print, but this is a little silly. We make decisions to switch vendors all the time with no fanfare. Those deals are hundreds of thousands of dollars and nary a peep.

We make a change where the cost is less than I spend on soda pop for the office and it's a war. I don't think so.

The point isn't what software we are using, but can we get people to use wikis at work? I tell ya folks, it ain't easy to wean people off of email...

Posted by michael at 01:58 PM
January 15, 2005
Ripping the net

For a few months Michele and I have been using a piece of software called StationRipper and it is fantastic.

Michele is a devoted listener of 97X - Woxy, a radio station from Cincinnati that made the jump from over the air to over the net. After 20 year on Ohio radio, the station was sold and the previous owners created a net only version. They have DJs, commercials, and in most respects sound like a regular radio station.

The station plays new alternative rock music and we are always hearing something fresh. Michele keeps a notebook at the computer just for writing down new songs she hears.

A few months ago, when I went to the computer show with James & Mark, Mark told me about doing streamrips from MP3 stations. A lot of net radio broadcasters use a system called Shoutcast to send out their music. Shoutcast allows anyone to make a playlist of their MP3s and let others on the net listen to it.

Some smart guys realized that Shoutcast was simply sending the entire MP3 file via the HTTP protocol and started writing code to save the MP3 as it arrived. This is the Streamripper project.

The best Windows implementation of Streamripper is StationRipper. It couldn't be easier to use.

You launch the software, hit the Shoutcast link, choose your station, and hit the 'Tune In', and the MP3s start getting recorded.

The MP3 is appropriately titled and has the ID3 info already embedded. The bitrate of the transmission is the bitrate of the MP3 file. Most net radio broadcasters use between 64 and 128 kb/s bitrates, so the quality is decent but not great.

The point is not to make archival audio files to replace buying music, it's simply to give yourself a way to listen to the music and find the new great things. On 97X Woxy, you also hear the DJ speaking and even the commercials. Since they mix the songs into each other, you often hear the overlap. On other stations without DJs, the MP3 files are perfectly trimmed.

Leave it running for a day or so and you'll easily have hundreds of songs waiting for you to listen to in your music directory.

This is good for everyone. It's good for me, 'cause I get tons of music. It's good for the radio station, 'cause I'm listening to them. And it's good for the artist, 'cause I'm buying CDs.

I heard the band Rilo Kiley as I was listening to the recorded MP3s. Easily I was able to listen to several of their songs that had been broadcast in one fell swoop. Next time I walked by a music store, I walked in and bought the album. Here's a sample of one of the good songs, It's a Hit. If you go to the Rilo Kiley site, you can listen to the whole album in one of those music Flash thingies. Then you should buy their album immediately.

Give StationRipper a try, you won't be disappointed. There are is a Mac streamripper implementation called StationRipperX, but since I am OSX challenged, I haven't tried it. Perhaps a Mac user might give it a try and review it? (James? Sean? Mr. P?)

Posted by michael at 07:58 AM
January 11, 2005

Los Angeles has been getting a lot of rain lately and we had incurred no trouble at Cruft Manor. When I was in Vegas last week for CES, I have to brag about the soundness of our roof.

Shouldn't have done that. On Monday I got a call from Michele that the ceiling was dripping. She was concerned that the rest of the ceiling was about to give way, so I came home to find out what's going on.

I crawled around in the attic space looking for water and found nothing. Up on the roof in the rain, I found the problem. There is normally some sealant between the chimmney and the tile that joins it to the roof. The upper edge was exposed and over the two weeks of rain, the water had worked itself down along the chimney and into the ceiling plaster.

Like any man faced with a weather issue, I got out my blue tarp and bungie corded it to the chimney to prevent more water from getting in. We're lucky, some people had much worse leaks.

Posted by michael at 09:10 PM
January 02, 2005
The best $15 I've spent in a long time...

Back before digital cameras were common place, when film ruled the photography world, I used to take pictures. I'm a happy snap guy. Aperture, shutter speed, and all that other crap is just crap to me. I point, I shoot.

I mean really, I married a professional photographer, she can worry about all that stuff, not me.

So my format of choice back in the day was the Advantix/APS film. APS has a lot of cool features. It's a cartridge based film so the negative is never exposed when outside the camera. You simply pop the cartridge in and away you go. The camera would magnetically encode the info on each shot into the cartridge so you didn't need the burn-in to know when you took the shot. For the truly obsessed, it took basically what we know as exif data on every shot. Metadata baby!

On processing, you got back an index print and could have the photo cropped three different ways. The cartridge even has a system to tell you if you had unexposed, exposed, or developed film just by looking at it. You could even shoot part of the roll, rewind it, and swap to another cartridge.

The drawback was the film size itself. Common 35 mm film that most people use makes an image on film that is 24mm×36mm. APS film makes an image that is 16.7mm×30.2mm, a bit smaller. This size made a lot of people shy away from using APS.

I didn't. I took a lot of pictures. We have a lot of cartridges.

I've wanted them digitized for a long time, but the cost was simply too high. An APS scanner used to go for well over $500. Recently I started googling for services that would scan them for me, but the going rate is around 50¢ per picture. With 25 pictures per roll, that's $12.50 a roll. Too much.

On a whim I searched Ebay and was happily surprised. I saw the Fuji AS-1 scanner going for $10. I did a little research and found that it was a real scanner that used to cost hundreds, now obviously getting closed out from somewhere. My research showed that it had drivers for Windows 95 & 98. It just might work. I bid one and for $15 it was mine.

When it arrived I was impressed. It looked like a real film scanner.

The drivers wouldn't even install under Windows XP. I just happen to have a spare 9 GB drive with Windows 98 SE on it. Just in case, you know. OK, I admit I'm a geek for having it, but it sure paid off.

With the scanner drivers installed, I popped in a cartridge. I could hear it unroll the film into the scanner.

I used Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 to acquire/import from the scanner. It all worked smooth. A few clicks and the scanner auto-scanned the entire 25 image roll. Took about an hour.

The resolution of the pictures is 896 x 512 pixels for a file size of just under 700k. Before you turn up your nose, take a look at one of the images.

I took a few scanned images down to the auto-self-service-with-Kodak-paper photo printers and printed a few out. They are indistinguishable from the original prints.

It would be nicer it it was a higher resolution, but what do I expect for $15? The only other drawback is that the scanner can't access the magnetic data on the cartridge. Supposedly a special Kodak one can do that, but I'll have to wait until that one goes on sale.

For now, we are ecstatic. I'm scanning in all our film as digital images. Once digital I can backup, print, whatever we feel like doing. All for a few bucks thanks to ebay, the rise of digital cameras, and Fuji for making a great little scanner.

Posted by michael at 09:13 PM

This weekend has been quiet. After a fun party on New Year's Eve, we've been homebodies.

Michele takes these times to get into cleaning/organizing binges. Today she attacked the bookcases in the family room with a vengance. She banished all the VHS tapes to boxes and I put them in the garage.

A couple weeks ago I took 40+ books to the library and today was the day Michele organized what was left.

We'll see what the girls think about the removal of the VHS tapes and having a DVD only selection for their viewing pleasure. They are my daughters, so they may ask why I haven't ripped all the DVDs to a media server yet...

Posted by michael at 08:51 PM