February 22, 2007
New desktop guts

I finally bit the bullet and bought the guts for my desktop to upgrade my gaming experience. The box from Newegg arrived today.

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 6400
Video card: XFX NVidia 7950 GT (silent!!)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-965P-S3
RAM: OCZ Platinum Series 2GB DDR2 6400

Michele and I are off for the weekend to Vegas for some fun, so I won't put it together until next week some time.

Comments from other gamers?

Posted by michael at 08:43 PM | Comments (4)
February 19, 2007

My brother Matt as the cover-boy for depressed Bears everywhere.

For those that provide tech support, Introducing the Book. (via Mom via Dieter)

Posted by michael at 10:28 AM | Comments (3)
February 17, 2007
Fusion Energy Coffee at 7-Eleven

Michele mentioned that she saw 'double caffeine' coffee at the local 7-Eleven. Of course, I had to give this a try.

Loyal Cruft Readers know my interest level in strange coffee flavors at 7-Eleven is longstanding. This is so important to 7-Eleven, there's a formal press release.

Sure enough, for those that can't get enough caffeine in regular coffee, the option to double up has arrived. 'Natural ingredients'? What exactly could that mean?

7 Eleven has added ginseng, guarana, and yerba maté. Wow, that's some stimulation.

A typical cup of coffee is around 125 milligrams of caffeine, so a cup of Fusion Energy Coffee is likely to be around 250 milligrams. To put that in caffeine perspective, a tablet of No-Dose is 200 mg, a can of Red Bull is 80 mg, and a can of Mountain Dew is 55 mg. If you drink Starbucks Coffee, this is nothing. A small 12 oz cup of Starbuck Coffee is 276 mg. All info from the handy Energy Fiend site.

Of course the guarana, ginseng and yerba maté all add in a bit of energy. Seems to me that these herbal stimulants affect everyone a bit differently. Some people get a big boost from them, others not much. My best guess is that heavy caffeine users have their nervous systems so amped up, that they don't notice much of the more subtle herbal stimulant effect.

Most importantly, how did it taste?

Fusion Energy Coffee tastes almost exactly like the regular 'Executive Blend' coffee. Just a hint of bitterness, similar to as if the pot had been cooking for a while before I got to it. Not bad at all. I'm a sucker for the American style drip coffee you find in diners and convenience stores.

Did I feel any extra burst of energy from the coffee? Nope. I drink about a half cup of coffee in the morning and sometimes a cup in the afternoons, so I'm not hardcore like some people I know. Running my Saturday errands sipping the coffee didn't seem to make much of a difference.

I await 7-Eleven's next coffee innovation.

Posted by michael at 05:03 PM | Comments (3)
Sony Execs must be crying

Upon walking into a Blockbuster store today, this is what I saw:

Playstation 3 systems are now plentiful, not reaching reserve prices on Ebay, and garnering nowhere near the demand of the Wii.

So let's be clear, Xbox 360 sold more consoles since the fall of 2006 than Wii and PS3 combined. Currently, over 1 million Wii have been sold and they are still in high demand with none on shelves and still commanding premium pricing on ebay. Over 600,000 PS3 systems have been sold, but they are now languishing on the shelves, apearing to have tapped out the market place in around four months, with systems now reaching the secondary sellers like Blockbuster video.

Tell me again how Sony will "dominate the market" if people don't appear to want to buy their consoles. The PS3 has nice graphics, but nothing else makes it better than a Xbox 360 or a Wii. We have all three at work, and no one ever plays the PS3.

Posted by michael at 01:10 AM | Comments (3)
February 11, 2007
Converting video to play on your Wii

The wonders of the Wii never cease.

I've known for a while about the Wii's ability to show pictures off of a SD memory card, but only recently learned that you can play videos on the Wii directly as well.

Software made by Red Kawa can convert most video into the Wii format. The software is Windows only.

The Wii will play back Motion JPEG (MJPEG) video. Motion JPEG is an older video format and doesn't utilize advanced compression algorithms. As a result, if you convert from an AVI or MPEG4 video, the resulting video will likely be much larger. For example a 174 MB Xvid file converted into a 667 MB MJPEG. That's almost a 400% increase in size.

The operation of Red Kawa Wii Video Converter is very simple, literally one click. Then move the new file onto a SD memory card.

On the front of a Wii is the SD slot. Simply put the card in the slot and go to the Photo Channel. You'll see the video(s) there and can play them.

The quality is OK, but not great. It's nowhere as good as a MPEG file. Motion JPEG is inherently blocky, but does not break up at all in high motion scenes. It's certainly good enough to watch.

The Wii lets you use all the fun Photo Channel tools, so you can draw on the moving video, pixelate it, or even do the puzzle from the moving video.

There's no great reason to convert your video to Wii format, but if you download something you'd like to watch on your TV easily, this may be the answer. No media servers, DVDs, or other more complicated methods. Personally I think it's great and sent Red Kawa (the same guy behind Videora) a $10 donation.

Posted by michael at 08:31 PM | Comments (1)
February 04, 2007
Lizard Rescue Service of South Pasadena

There are chores to do around Cruft Manor, one of the dirtest is cleaning out the spa. The spa died several years ago and for safety reasons, it is covered with a large plywood cover to prevent accidents.

After a few rains and nights of damp weather, the spa fills partially and becomes a haven for all sorts of 'icky' life. This morning I recieved the order from the top that today was a spa cleaning day. As a veteran of many battles with the spa water and it's denizens, I was prepared. I lifted the cover and the earwigs, crickets, pillbugs, spider, and other went scurrying.

I lowered a sump pump into the water and fired it up. Next, I used the hose to wash things down and help dilute the dirty water so the pump could push it up the hose into the garden. Soon, all that was left was for the sump pump to do it's work, so I went inside to goof off.

After a short while, I returned to check on the progress and saw this:

Yes, a lizard!

Obviously, the smart lizard found the insect haven and was getting fat on the buffet I had provided. Somehow it had fallen into the water and could not climb out of the spa.

At once, I called to the girls to take a look. They came outside and instantly the Lizard Rescue Service of South Pasadena formed and sprung into action.

At first I wasn't sure if it was a land lizard or some sort of slamander due to it's extremely long tail. After it set in the sun for a bit, it's skin dried up as it soaked up solar energy, and I was sure it was a simple lizard. It sure has one long tail though, doesn't it?

We placed the lizard into a styrofoam box and headed from the backyard to the nearby garden that borders on grass right-of-way near our house. Our thinking was that the garden and the right-of-way are not mowed and there is plenty of bugs of all sorts. Hopefully the lizard would agree. But lizards can't talk, so we will never know.

Once the box was on the ground, the lizard just sat there, staring at me, not getting out of the box. I reached in and carried the lizard out of the box. I didn't want to simply dump the already traumatized reptile.

Soon, the lizard was resting in the shade, getting used to it's new surroundings. The work of the Lizard Rescue Service of South Pasadena was done.

Posted by michael at 01:05 PM | Comments (4)
February 03, 2007
How to do the electrolyis of water

Last month was Science Fair month and I helped Zoe show the electrolysis of water. For those of that never studied, electrolysis is the use of electricity to break down molecules in liquid form into their component atoms. In this case, we are breaking done water into the component elements of oxygen and hydrogen.

The circuit is fairly simple to build.

I used two 9 volt batteries in series to create an 18V drop. I bought a few 9V battery clips and soldered them to hookup wire. I then carefully wrapped the wire around one of sharpened pencils. The graphite in a pencil makes an excellent electrode.

The solder won't really attach to the graphite well, so the wire needs to wrap around a bit and the solder acts as a cap. The electrical tape provides tension, keeping the connection.

The other end of pencil should be sharpened to expose as much graphite as possible.

When you have a tall glass of water ready, attached the battiers.

You'll see the bubbles start to form immediately. The side with more bubbles is the hydrogen side. Remember that there are two hydrogen atoms for each atom of oxygen in water.

Seeing the gas appear out of water is impressive to people.

Water itself is a poor conductor of electricity. We added a bit of salt into the water. Salt water is a much better conductor of water, so the reaction is much more prominent.

Remember that salt is sodium chloride, chorilde being chorline. When the electrolysis occurs in salt water, the salt molecules are also split, freeing up the chorline atoms to make, you guessed it, chorline gas.

So when you smell salt water during electrolysis, it smells exactly like swimming pool water.

Here's a short video to show exactly how much gas is produced from my setup:

Posted by michael at 05:06 PM | Comments (2)
February 01, 2007

The best advice for buying a High Defintion television that I've seen in a long time. I don't disagree with a thing.

Posted by michael at 12:16 PM | Comments (2)