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Archive for 2004

The Lazy Tree – Decidedly low-tech

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004
Tree rigging
Tree rigging

Its Los Angeles, we aren’t supposed to have ‘weather’. Oh well, anyway the recent downpour has caused no end of annoyances for me. First the Internet goes out, the comes back on, then off, then on, you get the point. Then finally the power goes out. I give up for the evening and try to go to sleep only to be awoken every time the wind blows as the house is creaking unusually heavily. Kimmy after much effort convinced me to go out in the rain and take a look. I found one of the large oak trees has decided to lean on the house, great…

So this morning (after sleeping in the living room to avoid death by tree) after several failed attempts to get someone up here during the holidays, I gave up and made a temporary rigging. With the help of my father who has no end of supplies when it comes to the right tool for the right job, I did the following…

Tree Gallery

The cable and ratchet are rated for 2000lbs and the chain (which is doing double duty as a backup in case all else fails) is good for at least twice that.

It should hold until I can get a tree guy up here to assess the situation.


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MTHEL
MTHEL

My silly christmas list.

Home Defense:
MTHEL Megawatt class laser system
Sure, some people may say a gun is good home defense. But I’d like to see the gun that can shoot down multiple inbound rockets and mortar shells! Its like Command&Conquer, but for real!

TV:
Lightning 35HD Projector
Sure a 120″ TV with 5000-lumens sounds like plenty, but lets think big, really big, $170k big (lens included?). I say if this is what they use to show film at the Oscars and Emmy’s I need one in my living room. So at 16000-ANSI lumens, 3DLP chips at full HD 1920×1080 resolution, and 1600:1 contrast this baby can show movies up to 50feet wide! A little Pythagorean theory tells us thats about 56feet or 670″ diagonal. I think I may need a bigger living room. More good projector specs at Projector Central. d_image(“lightning35hd.jpg”, “misc”, “image_fr_last”, “Lightning 35HD”);

Display:
T221 Flat Panel Display
It may only be 22 inches diagonally (compared to Apples mammoth 30″ display) but at a resolution of 3840×2400 it has more than 9 million pixels and takes 2 Dual-channel DVI cables and a dual output video card to generate its 200dpi image. In perspective of this list its a bargin, at just shy of $10grand with the video card needed to drive it. Both of these displays are of the ‘must see live to comprehend’ type.

Keeping tabs on the neighbors:
Keyhole-13 10cm resolution Spy Satellite
The Quickbird is the highest resolution commercial imaging satellite up there. With its 61cm resolution you can make out vehicles and other fairly large (or small depending on how you look at it) objects on the surface from orbit. Impressive, but not as impressive as the military. 10cm isn’t enough resolution to read your license plate or see your face, but its enough to say ‘yeah i see the fat guy next to the skinny guy, take the one on the left down’. The rumored KH-13 replaces the KH-12 (also 10cm) and is likely very similar with the exception of being stealth as well. Obviously, there isn’t a lot of available information on it, but the link above should give you a good idea. d_image(“renaultf1.jpg”, “misc”, “image_fr_last”, “Renault F1 Car”);

Car:
A Ferrari Enzo may cost $650k, have 650HP, go from 0-60MPH in 3.3seconds and have a top speed of 220MPH. But lets think a bit faster. Renault recently approached british car show Top Gear and allowed them to test a real 2004 Formula 1 race car(fresh off the 2004 circuit) on the TopGear test track. That’s pretty impressive since very very few people ever get to drive a modern F1 car besides the drivers themselves (all that secrecy and stuff). But its not nearly as impressive as the TWENTY seconds the F1 car was able to shave off of the Ferrari Enzo’s 1:19 laptime. Granted, the F1 car took 16 engineers and a myriad of computer equipment and specialized gear just get ready for a single lap, but 0:59 is still an impressive time. It did over 183MPH on the straight bits, thats fast.

Ok, just a few tid bits on my list. Feel free to send them me any of them.


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iPod 2100mAh battery
iPod 2100mAh battery

Batteries are getting better. In the last few years manufactures have been able to up the capacity of batteries for portable electronics. Typically manufactures of electronics tend to use up this power by either shrinking their devices (smaller batteries) or adding power sucking features (big color screens, etc…). The good news for you, is 3rd party companies are making new batteries for your old devices.

Have a 1st or 2nd generation iPod? It originally got 10hrs of battery life. Now it gets up to 24hrs (20hrs+) with a NewerTech2100mAh battery for only $39.99! Not bad, they also have a slightly lower power 1800mAh model (15-19hrs) for $29.99 at the same place.

Another example, the iBook 500mhz started with a 3300mAh battery, my wife’s model has a 4000mAh battery and you can get a 4800mAh battery now. So if you have an old laptop with pathetic battery life, look around you may be able to breath new life in to those old laptops with a high capacity battery.

P.S. For the technically challenged, there is a service that will do it for you for $79.99 with 24hr shipping.


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Quick Verizon FIOS Fiber Update

Wednesday, December 8th, 2004

So far a dozen or so users from only 2 exchanges have posted speed tests of the new FIOS service, but a user in the Murrieta area is claiming he is up and running. Hopefully we will get the first west coast speed test posted shortly.

Exchanges up and running:
arlington.fios.verizon.net
dllstx.fios.verizon.net

Top speed? 28254/4503
That is some tasty bandwidth!


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Video Card Values

Wednesday, November 17th, 2004

I’m probably breaking all sorts of internet etiquette rules here, but I think people will find this information useful. I pilfered the FPS scores from this article at tomshardware.com. So go visit them for much more detailed breakdowns of how the data was created or additional specs.

So, I just wanted to know what’s the best bang for my $$$ in video cards with recent video games like FarCry and Doom3. So a quick excel spreadsheet later, here is what I have…

			Farcry*	Doom3**	Farcry	Doom3	
		Price	FPS	FPS	$/FPS	$/FPS	Lower is better
6800 Base 	$275 	60	55	$4.58 	$5.00 	$4.79 
9800 Pro 	$163 	40	25	$4.08 	$6.52 	$5.30 
6800 GT 	$380 	79	65	$4.81 	$5.85 	$5.33 
9800 Base	$140 	35	21	$4.00 	$6.67 	$5.33 
9600 Pro	$100 	22	12	$4.55 	$8.33 	$6.44 
9600 Base	$75 	17	8.5	$4.41 	$8.82 	$6.62 
X800 XT		$480 	92	59	$5.22 	$8.14 	$6.68 
X800 Pro	$385 	71	42	$5.42 	$9.17 	$7.29 
6800 Ultra	$580 	86	68	$6.74 	$8.53 	$7.64 
9800 XT		$407 	45	27	$9.04 	$15.07 	$12.06
Nvidia 6800NU
Nvidia 6800NU
ATI 9800NU
ATI 9800NU

*Farcry VHQ No AA/AF 1024
**Doom3 HQ Demo1 4xAA/8xAF 1024×768

All cards 128MB

Also, there seem to be numerous reports of the 6800 Base (aka 6800NU (non-ultra)) being software unlockable to make it much faster. But, your milage may vary on finding a card that this works on.
 
 
 


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Things I do when re-installing OS X

Monday, November 8th, 2004

This is not ment to be an all inclusive guide to installing OS X, it
isn’t supposed to be a tutorial either, nor are any of these necessarily required.
Its merely a checklist I like to go through. I hope some of you find it useful.

If anyone has any suggestions/additions, feel free to leave a comment.

Things to do when installing OS X

enable root [sudo passwd root]
rm Desktop OS9 Folder
enable ssh
enable appletalk
install the developer tools
set keyboard/double click rates
set hard disk sleep and system sleep
turn off quicktime version check and hot picks thing
turn on seconds on clock
turn on manual clock update
turn software update on manual
turn on Zoom in universal access
turn OFF rectangle when zoomed out (in universal access)
set dock size (very small), set to left and pinned on the bottom
turn off volume in menubar
copy hosts file from another machine
copy /etc/sysctl.conf (sets TCP/IP stack parameters)
copy .ssh keys
copy /usr/local/bin crap
copy /sw
turn on identd
copy keychains (note SMB login names must be in ALL CAPS)
set energy saver to ‘highest’ performance
pick a nice desktop pattern
turn on apache
enable PHP

Safari:
turn on tabs
turn off popups
set opening page to blank
set homepage to google
goto google turn off safe search


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Exifiron!

Monday, November 1st, 2004

Nothing makes me happier than finding a tool to save me time doing things I already do. Digital photography has changed the way I deal with photos. Online galleries allow all of my friends to share in on the experience without any printing, making copies, sending files, or any of the mundane old school methods of photography.

But, I have this part of my brain that gives me great pain when I think of data loss and gives me great satisfaction in knowing I’ve achieved the greatest possible quality or when I save all data. So while I completely enjoy the benefits of using lossy formats like MP3 and JPEG, I have a strong urge to be efficient about doing so.

So at some point I learned that jpegtran can do lossless image transformations with JPEG. But, using a command line tool to do hand rotations of pictures is much too tedious to be useful on a larger scale.

Hence, EXIF. Exif is the Exchangeable Image File Format. It’s a nifty little standard for adding useful information to JPEG files such as thumbnails, camera metering modes, camera orientation and all sorts of other information that might be useful.

Now, take the jpegtran algorithm, throw in some EXIF awareness in the mix and you get exifiron! Simply type ‘exifiron *.jpg’ in a directory full of jpegs and automagically all your original jpegs are rotated to the correct orientation.

Nifty eh?

Here is a nice link to jpegclub.org that has quite a few lossless jpeg applications, including some nice easy windows binaries for those command line deprived windows users.


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A Verizon update

Sunday, October 24th, 2004

Last thursday (ok so I’m just getting this new site working and I’m slow) Verizon Fiber officially announced in 6 new states

They are, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.
As, obvious from my first post on the topic, we already knew about all these states with the exception of MA. I’ll have to go digging through more forums later and see where in MA they are installing.

For additional reading check out and some pictures of actual installations, check out DSL/BroadbandReports.com. Another interesting site is fios.3v3bizich.com which has forums for people to report sitings of fiber installs.

For more pictures of the same model Optical Network Terminal (ONT) check out the the Fiber Direct PDF links in the last post.


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Verizon Rolling out the Fiber

Thursday, October 7th, 2004

I’m currently paying a ridiculous amount for a very pathetic Internet connection. I’m way past the range for DSL and I have been resigned to deal with the fact that I wasn’t going to have a good connection any time in the near future for a reasonable price.

So, for the first couple of months my brain didn’t allow me to even acknowledge the small army of Verizon trucks that started building up in the Canyon (Topanga Canyon). Since I didn’t want to prematurely get excited and become completely preoccupied by it, I just ignored it. Well, between the official Verizon announcements and my wife actually asking the Verizon guys what they were doing, I finally had to come to terms with the reality of the situation.

Box on lines
Box on lines
Box before mounted on lines
Box before mounted on lines
Fiber Dogs
Fiber Dogs

Fios (FYE-ose) is coming! FIber OpticSystem? FIberOpticS? FIber OShit! ‘FIber Optic Service’ (thx Zoli).

I’m not really sure what it means, but its good. For those who don’t understand the initial significance, fiber is going to START by giving you about 10 times what you get with a similarly priced DSL/Cable connection. It has the capability of being 100-1000x faster. The FiberDirect system they are using is capable of up to 622Mbits down and 155Mbits up.

That’s fast, very…very fast. That’s faster than your typical computer fast. That’s download a full DVD in a minute fast. Probably faster than you’re computers Ethernet (typically 10-100Mbit) and hard disk (typically 20-50MBytes/sec).

Anyway it isn’t going to be THAT fast out of the box.

It’s noteworthy that Verizon has chosen to pioneer the fiber territory (although SBC has announced in very me too like fashion a hybrid fiber network of their own which may turn out to have better economics). The RBOC’s (Regional Bell Operating Centers aka. Baby-Bells aka Verizon, SBC, BellSouth and US West/Quest) are entering in to a difficult time. Two of their primary sources of income, local and long distance phone calls are being encroached upon or wiped out. The cost of Long distance has fallen to almost nothing recently and IP Telephony only stands to shrink the market even further. The other source, local service, is being encroached upon by cable companies with wired solutions and with cell phone prices lower than ever, the wireless providers are squeezing them as well. Many users coming to the conclusion that their cell phone is all they need. So with cable providing internet, video and expanding in to voice and Wireless companies coming from the other side with slower but more convenient services, the RBOC’s need to find them selves a future.

Fiber patch bay (note garfield pencil box)
Fiber patch bay (note garfield pencil box)
Guy outside window! BOO!
Guy outside window! BOO!
Working yet?
Working yet?

The Internet and Video are obvious choices, but the sheer cost of building networks is enormous. Typically with large public companies, you end up in a quagmire of sorts. If you invest large sums of money in to a network with an unknown future and soak up all the profits, share holders tend to cry bloody mercy and run you out with flaming torches. On the other hand, if you hold off too long and don’t invest in new technology, the world will pass you by and before you know it, your industry doesn’t even exist! Kodak is a good example of a company that waited too long and is now paying the price for not embracing digital with all its might early on.

Details

Verizon is going to be spending billion of dollars over the upcoming years on rolling it out to all 35million of its customers. Here is a short list of sightings i’ve compiled, this list is in NO WAY comprehensive nor does it confirm availability. I just trolled through all the forums as of today, so you don’t have to. The only confirmed area to be up and running is Keller, TX. Huntington Beach and Murrieta have been announced but not confirmed.

Huntington Beach, CA
Murrieta, CA
Topanga, CA
Whittier,CA
Hillsborough County, FL
Tampa, FL
Valrico, FL
Lutz, FL
Pasco County, FL
Arlington County, VA
Leesburg, VA
Falls Church, VA
Massapequa, NY
Mineola, NY
Nassau, NY
Irvington, NY
Rockland County, NY
Chester County PA
Valley Forge, PA
Phoenixville, PA
Downingtown, PA
Wilmington, Delaware
Silver Spring MD
Rowlett, TX
Wylie, TX
Keller, TX
Grapevine, TX
Irving, TX
Allen, TX
Southlake,TX

Package pricing:

Up to 5 Mbps/2 Mbps*	Waived	FREE	$39.95/mo
Up to 15 Mbps/2 Mbps*	Waived	FREE	$49.95/mo
Up to 30 Mbps/5 Mbps*	Waived	FREE	$199.95/mo

Pirelli Optical Cable, (yes, the same guys who make high performance tires) seem to be providing the cable here. Kimmy was cool enough to get a Verizon guy to give her a piece of fiber to bring home. From this piece and the measurement (~14.6mm) of the cable that was temporarily hanging out side in our front yard I was able to determine that its probably an FusionLink Armored cable.

Installations are being reported as using AFC’s FiberDirect system. More reading can be found here… Fiber Direct Overview PDF and here… Fiber Direct Brochure PDF

Fiber
Fiber
Fiber lit by laser pointer
Fiber lit by laser pointer
Stalking verizon guys
Stalking verizon guys
Cable
Cable

And if you just can’t get enough, here are plenty more pictures of verizon guys.


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