Monday, November 29, 2004

Usable GUI Design: A Quick Guide

Usable GUI Design: A Quick Guide

This is a good collection of UI design principles targeted at open source deveopers... but I bet they also apply to closed source developers that are doing UI design as well.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

MASSIVE, et al.

Gwen Owen

The Mrs. has started her own blog. Since blogger doesn't support categories this makes sense to me. It would be cool if we could post to the same blog, but we talk about such different things, without categories it's tough.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Doc Searls

Shawn is under the impression that Doc Searls works in our building.

Linux Journal is up on the 5th floor (of which he is a contributor) and we just had a UPS guy come in here asking about where the Linux Journal offices were cause he had a package for Doc Searls.

Inconclusive yes, but I'm trying to convince Shawn to go upstairs and ask them if he works here.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

How to read blogs

This is a post for those who are reading my blog and would like to do so more effectively.

It is possible for you to visit this web site daily, or every other day, or weekly, and pick up the latesting postings that I've made. This unfortunately doesn't scale as well as some new beautiful technology called RSS. RSS is a format used to publish the contents of a website (laymans terms here). This site has an RSS feed which publishes the title and contents of every post I make. This is the link rss feed

On my PC I use an open source piece of software called RSS Bandit to "subscribe" to feeds published by certain websites. This lets me go about my daily business and when RSS bandit detects there is a new posting it let me know. I can then go through and quickly see all the new posts that have arrived since the last time I looked. This way I can subscribe to many many blogs, and read them in a relatively short amount of time. It's much more efficient than navigating to each website to see if there has been a new posting since the last time I looked.

For those on the mac you might want to check out News Fire. I haven't tried it yet, but it's free, so it doesn't hurt to check it out.

More details:
RSS feeds are actually specially formatted XML documents that RSS readers will periodically poll to see if there is new content listed in the XML document. My site puts the entire content of the post in the XML document, so you should never have to visit this page to view what I've posted. Just check your RSS Reader to see what the latest crazy stuff I've said is.

Time to say it

I have a lot to say today. I guess not so much today in general, as that I have a lot more to say than I have time to say it. Work and life have both been really busy. It's kind of nice to be forced to sit in one place and write down some ideas. I've been having trouble getting my thoughts written down lately. These last few posts have been stream of conciousness, no edit, type posts, and it feels pretty good to just write some things down. Kind of like I'm emptying out my head.

Up next: A primer on how to read this blog. I plan on sending out some links to my blog and I think a good way to start off would be a little primer on how I read blogs and why I think that method is effective.

MSN Bombs & Rumors

MSN Bombs & Rumors

I thought this was amusing. Google is "more evil than satan", and Microsoft is an "evil corporation".

Blogs are a wonderful thing for Microsoft. It lets the developers and project managers working on a project respond directly to rumors and questions. Very very good for a company that has been an "evil faceless giant" for years.

More on the ReplayPC

So I'm really excited about this replay PC thing. I think my next step is to drop a 250 gig hard drive in the computer, and perhaps get a new case. My old case is very big and heavy and noisy. I'm hoping to use this case to get the noise down to about 40db or so. Which reminds me, I should probably get an SPL meter one of these days.

Gwen and I bought the 40 gig model replay tv, and the reality is, it's not worth it to upgrade to the higher models. They charge you an extra 100 bucks for what is basically 40 gigs more storage. I can build a 250 gig hard drive for about 150 bucks right now, which is a much better gig/dollar ratio. I just have to do a little work to get the replaypc setup.

DVArchive supports running scheduled tasks. So currently I have it setup to pull the shows I watch the least off of the replay and put them on the PC. That way they aren't taking up room on the replay. The limiting factor is going to be transfer speed though. You can only pull things off at about 1x. So I guess I'm limited to recording 12 hours of tv a day. ;-)

It's nice to have that extra storage and not worry about the replay automatically deleting shows to make room for more. Plus I might be able to start recording things in high quality which might make better use of our 37" plasma tv. Although it's still going into the replay over composite cables, which has gotta be the bottleneck at the moment. I want an HDTV comcast cable box simply because it supports outputs better than composite video. At least then I could do some side by side trials to see if it actually gives me better quality video.

Here's to hoping that HDTV DVRs come down in price, and aren't heavily DRM encumbered (yeah right).

Which is another topic for another day. I've done some very fun things with the replaytv, all of which I imagine would fall under fair use. However, the powers that be would like to stop me from doing these things... with the broadcast flags and all that other BS. :-(

Seattle Library

Gwen and I are here at the new seattle public library. Many have posted about it before, but this one is mine.

I really like the feel of the place... modern... kind of like the future of the past.

They have free wi-fi though, which is important. Especially since I don't really have anything I'm looking for. Mostly just along for the ride while Gwen gets some books about some composer or another. I do actually remember which one, but I'm afraid to attempt spelling it. Ah I have an idea. I'll just look at this book sitting next to me.


That wasn't so hard. I hope Gwen's efforts are fruitful. She had a list of about 10 books and so far I'm only seeing one sitting here. Not a good sign.

This isn't a bad way to force me to blog... sit in a room with a bunch of boring books, but internet access. ;-)

The ReplayPC

Gwen and I just got done with the lacey brown show, and we're sitting at home watching the simpsons. First of all, ReplayTV (or tivo) is the best invention EVAR! When I watch TV I watch what I want, when I want. :)

The latest addition to the setup is my old desktop that has been turned into a replay server using DVArchive. The latest version of DVArchive is great. The web server functionality makes this whole thing work. I have a box running windows XP hosting DVArchive.

The machine in question is a 1.2 ghz Athlon with 512 megs of ram and a 80gig hard drive.

A major factor is the fact that you can stream shows from the replaypc (as I've taken to calling it) to the replaytv. I set up a couple of channels to automatically get moved from the replaytv to the PC.

The next step in this process involves windows media encoder and my ipaq. :-)

I've downloaded videos to my laptop and encoded them at a bitrate compatible with my iPaq, then taken them down to the gym and watched them instead of whatever is on the tvs downstairs. I'm hoping to automate the process and punch a hole through my router so I can download them at work and put them on my ipaq. I'll never be bored at the gym again. :-)

Lacey Brown show

The show went well tonight. A good time was had by all. I enjoy the challenge of making music with a laptop. I still have my eye on some new gear, but it's amazing what you can do with nothing more than a laptop and a korg microkontrol. Technology sure has come a long way.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Lacey Brown show tonight (Nov 12th)

There is a Lacey Brown show tonight at the Flying Lion cafe. I've been producing beats for Lacey for a while now. It's going to be a blast.

We're playing with the dandelion method Music: Ultravisitor Music: Ultravisitor

Gwen bought me this album yesterday. I like it so far. A little bit too glitchy in areas, but has some very cool melodic moments.

(Also, everybody who blogs with blogger should get this extension for firefox. BlogThis

Thursday, November 11, 2004

More iPaq fun

I've been working on another project involving the iPaq and videos. I don't have time to blog about it now, but I promise more cool stuff will be forthcoming.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

collapse-to-zoom homepage

collapse-to-zoom homepage

Here's another link for collapse to zoom if you're interested.

Technology Review: Pen Stroke Cuts PDA Web Clutter

Technology Review: Pen Stroke Cuts PDA Web Clutter

This technology sounds very cool. When I originally got my iPaq I thought it would be handy for surfing the net. However, with the small screen size, and with so many websites not designed for small form factor, it just never really "worked". I use my laptop for surfing the net now anyway.

Course I would love to see web designers using layouts that will shrink better. I've taken a stab at this kind of thing before (creating PDA friendly web pages) and it's not easy. But there are web developers out there that are much better than I (I don't consider my self a web designer at all really) that could tackle these problems.

Market's not big enough to warrant attention I guess.... unless those web enabled cell phones become popular.

It's one of those chicken and egg things. Developers don't write for SFF because nobody uses SFF devices to surf the web, and nobody uses SFF to surf the web because it all looks so horrible.

XHTML and CSS to the rescue. :-)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

not exactly Tron...

I frequently find myself frustrated that life isn't more computerized, even though I'm pretty freaked out that someday technology is going to take over humans in some Terminator3-esque disaster (it isn't a matter of what, or why, or "how do we avoid it?," it's a matter of when- IT'S INEVITABLE!! we're doomed, with the cybernetics and the liquid metal and the glaven-oi they'regonnadestroyus.)

But pretty much every two or three days I experience misplacing something, or trying to remember what someone said earlier, or trying to find a specific phrase from a book or something I wrote down... you know where I'm going with this-

I actualy feel my "command" and "f" fingers twitch in response to the desire to find things. This is especially the typical reaction when I'm trying to find a word or a phrase on a page, or when I can't seem to find my keys. [command + f: "keys"]

Yesterday I lost my wallet. I searched the house over for 3 hours, checked the car about 3 times, dug through pockets, and when I still hadn't found it, I came to the conclusion that I either lost it in a parking lot I had been at earlier, or that it had somehow slipped from my hand into a grocery bag which I later threw away. It was then I imagined what it had been like if I could go to some central storage facility in my home, and get my hands on the "backup wallet" I had made in case I ever accidentally tossed my original.

When I can't remember some piece of information someone told me over the phone, I want to open my email and find the message where s/he had told me that information. But of course, it doesn't really work that way.

I don't live inside a computer (and if I did, surely I'd have much cooler clothing than I do), and while it would make finding things I've misplaced plenty easier if I did live in a computer, I can't help but worry about myself and others like me. Do I rely on computers too much? I'm not talking about relying on computers to take care of my bank account, or to keep inventories at the local grocery store or whatever (that's a whole 'nother topic). I specifically mean- Do I rely on computers to remember things for me too much? To help me find things? Has this dependence taught me that I don't need to remember where I put things? Or that... I don't have to listen to someone the first time, because I can just "check the email" later?

I think I'll start calling people again, instead of just emailing people for everything. Maybe that will help.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Bad Encoder behavior

Don't use the same string I used to encode your files. If the converted directory is under your source directory, then the encoder will recursively re-encode all the files. I had 5 copies before I caught it.

The new one will have c:\msdn videos\ as the input and c:\msdn videos converted\ as the output.

channel 9 and podcasts

Looks like scoble answered my question about channel 9 and podcasting.... now I just need to figure out how to wire all that stuff together.

I could get ipodder, but that's not a real solid app based on my experience with the mac version... maybe I will get it though... then I get setup my desktop to download and encode the videos... then I just need to figure out the best way to sync them with my ipaq...

Getting Channel 9 Videos onto my iPaq.

For those who don't know... has some very cool videos of interviews with Microsoft Staffers. I've always enjoyed watching these videos, but have never had enough time to do so. Then I remembered the one biggest activity that causes time to move slowly... exercizing at the gym.

I have an iPaq 5550 that will play wmv files with the built in Windows Media Player, but for some reason I couldn't get the channel 9 videos to play. A quick email conversation with Scoble pointed me to some ideas. It sounds like they are doing multiple bit rates, as well as variable bit rates. I went off and downloaded the windows media encoder so that I could transcode the videos to a more ipaq friendly format.

Here's the process.

Visited the video forum on channel9

I used the "downloadthemall" plugin for firefox to grab all the windows media files (this was a little tough because they have links to both the streaming and download videos which share the wmv extension. I had to manually weed out the ones that were streaming)

Download the windows media encoder

I used the profile editor to create a new profile that was suitable for my ipaq
32kbps, 44khz, mono CBR for audio. Since this is primarily about the audio, I didn't want to be stingy with the audio bit-rate.

5 second buffer
video smoothness of 75

This produces files that are about 1/4 the size of the originals. I'm definitely losing quality, and doing a transcode instead of a second encoding of the original material doesn't help. It would be nice if they would start producing 2 videos, one that was CBR and smaller to fit on my iPaq... but so far this seems like it will work.

To do the encoding I've downloaded all the files into one directory and then use the batch encoder to encode them.
This is the command string I'm using:

cscript.exe WMCmd.vbs -input "c:\MSDN Videos" -output "c:\MSDN Videos\Converted" -loadprofile "c:\MSDN Videos\pocketpc.prx"

In the future I'll just watch the videos XML feed and download those... although it would be nice to setup the podcasting stuff. That will probably be the next step... setup ipodder to download the videos (does the channel9 video feed support ipodder?) and then afterwards run a bat file to transcode and delete the videos.