Blog (Random Thoughts)
My Blog of random thoughts and anything that strikes my fancy.



11-14-2020

Bard's Tale II

You would think with a pandemic I would have tons of time to add new webpages like crazy. And you would not properly realize how slack a person can be either. But in any case, I did finish and finally get a write up for my Bard's Tale 2 review.

Bard's Tale II



7-22-2020

Miniatures Page Update

The last update to the miniatures page. Or at least the last for a while. The final section I wanted was an attempt to see what information I could find about the miniatures I purchased in the 80’s. Amazingly I was able to find the model numbers for each and every one. Go Internet!

Miniatures



7-20-2020

Miniatures and Games

A new page to organize my information on miniatures, and some more game reviews for the Game Room page.

Miniatures

The Game Room



7-12-2020

More Games

New content for the Game Room Page. The place holders are working! It's now a lot easier to start adding some reviews. I added reviews for both Spinjas and The Magic UFO

The Game Room



7-11-2020

Assorted Section Update

A new look and some revisions to the "Assorted" Section. This page was really not fitting the look of other pages so adjusted it to match. While doing so I got rid of a couple of pages that were not all that interesting and cleaned up the images and text on a few others. I'm hoping to use this as a springboard to create a new miniatures page for this section.

Assorted Pages



7-5-2020

New Projects and Sections

Quite a few updates over the 4th of July weekend, but at the moment, most of them are place holders. My hope is that by having the placeholders created, I'll be more inclined to actually add content. We'll see.

The Game Room

Atari 2600

Music Composition



6-14-2020

Random Updates

Just a handful of random updates this week.

Of most interest was the results of the "Finding people from the All Eastern Choir Project". After 3 rounds of using a combination of Been Verified, Linked In, Facebook, and a bunch of emails I found 6 of the 10 people I looked for. Not a bad result for finding people 30 years later that you only met one time.

The final update to the Quarantine 2020 Pictures. Quarantine 2020

Added a review for the game ROTMG



6-7-2020

Fate

Another small update. I put up a page for the computer game "Fate". A nice little ARPG from 2005 that still had some legs. I had always wanted to see how fast I could do a speed run of the game if I played a min maxing the characters.

FATE



6-2-2020

Coronavirus and now Riots

On the plus side, I have gotten back to updating some pages.

Well hello Coronavirus and now Riots. 2020 is turning out to be a right crazy year. This begins the 12th week of working from home and I gotta say that I don't care for it.

New Travel Page Quarantine 2020

A new look for the Games and Game Review Pages. I'm looking to write more about a few games that have been taking up my time. I'll also break out the Game page into a "Computer Games" page as I plan on having a "Game Room" page in the future.
Computer Games



3-28-2020

All State MD 1988, and All Eastern 1989

And last, but certainly not least

All State MD 1988, and All Eastern 1989

But since every good completed project is simply a springboard to another project, I'm going to try and expand this one a bit. When I had participated in the All Eastern Choir I had met some wonderful people and for once thought ahead just enough to circle all of them in red ink on the program notes. That in itself would not be useful, but the program notes were exceptional and not only included first, last, and middle initials but the state and county. So, let's see what can be done. Can you really find people 30 years later with only this?

We shall see.



3-16-2020

Tri-County Honors Choir from 1987, 1988, 1989

It took a while, but all three are now complete.

An interesting little project I must say. Literally years in the making if you start counting from when I first digitized the cassette tapes. The part that ending up being the most interesting was trying to determine the song names and arrangements.

Tri-County Honors Choir 1987, 1988, 1989



3-2-2020

Tri-County Honors Choir from 1987

As it is like to happen, sometimes a project gets out of control. I had thought to simply post the songs I had digitized in the past on my site and call it a day. It turned out to be a bit more involved than I thought. I'm hoping that now I have the first page done, the next will be more "cut and paste"

Tri-County Honors Choir from 1987



2-26-2020

Image resizing with computer AI

This was going to be just a quick blog post, but it got rather large and was something I might reference in the future so I created a separate page for it. While trying to create a good example I found the only way was to use an image slider plug in so this is also my first use of jquerry. Multiple learning experiences in one!

Image Resizing with AI



2-18-2020

Backups

This is an image of "CD Rot".

Storage is cheap, backup your data today.
Storage is cheap, backup your backups.
CD's are NOT Archival media.

This is a CD I made about 18 years ago. It has been keep in a CD sleeve and under climate controlled conditions the entire time. Thankfully this is the backup of my backup. Don't lose your memories, you worked hard for them. If you have backups on old media, now is a great time to migrate everything forward.

I've worked in IT for close to 20 years now, and as "The IT Guy" I have been asked if I could "recover these priceless family photos" from somewhere more times than I can remember. Currently a 256G USB Thumb drive is $45. That is plenty enough data for most people. If you need more a 1T Standard external USB drive is only $50. Your memories are easily worth this.




2-16-2020

Wish and Aliexpress (Part 2)

Since Wish.com was successful I thought I'd try Aliexpress. I had been looking for this game called "Deep Sea Adventure". It's a micro game from Jun Sasaki. For an incredibly small game I was not ready to pay $20+ but it never seemed to go on sale. The price of $6.75 from Aliexpress caught my eye and I thought I would take a chance. I have read multiple reviews saying that many of the prices that "seemed to good to be true" were just that. Cheaply made copies and out and out scams seem to be common. 3 weeks later when my copy arrived I was very happy to see that mine seemed to be legit. A great find and fun little game.




2-14-2020

Wish and Aliexpress

If you have not heard of these, they are both online discount retailers that ship directly from China. If you absolutely DON'T need it overnight but are fine waiting about a month, then take a look. While I would not purchase anything expensive from either of these sites, if you need something cheap or want to take a gamble, by all means. The dining room chairs were in very bad shape and I just wanted something fast so I was looking at chair covers. $38 from Amazon, or $26 from Wish. I figured this was the perfect purchase to try them out. It took about 3 weeks, but they showed up, and have been a fine purchase. I don't expect them to last more 4 years, but they seem to be a perfect stop gap measure.




12-14-2019

Game Room

Hello again. Been a while since I've posted anything, but not for lack of things going on. Normally I would try and be more chronological, but there is just way to many things I'd like to share so I'll just jump in to the most recent project which is setting up a game room. New paint, rug, desk, and wall décor. Done and done. I have ideas on how to upgrade the wall décor, but that will be more of an incremental thing.

Fun items in the Room. I have both the Dungeons Masters Guide and Monster Manuel from edition 1 but no player's handbook. I would really like to get a copy from Ebay, but they seem to be running $60-$80 for a copy which is more than I really want to spend at this time. I've also looked at getting copies of some of the computer games that started me out on computers like Wizardry, Bard's Tale, and Ultima. These are also rather expensive with prices between $60-$120 for copies. I'll think about it.




9-11-2019

A Bottle of Galliano

I had mentioned on an entry in Dec 2012 that I have four old bottles of liquor from my parents' house. I check them every year or so to make sure the seals are still good, and open them to drink if it looks like the seal is going and they are starting to evaporate. On a recent check it looks like another bottle might be starting to evaporate so it might be time to drink it soon.

First, what the heck is "Galliano"? I've never heard of it or had it as far as I know. It IS sold in the NC ABC store, but I don't think I've ever purchased it before. Time to see that the Web has to say about it.

"Galliano has numerous natural ingredients including star anise, Mediterranean anise, juniper berry, musk yarrow, lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, and Galliano's hallmark vanilla flavor.[1] Galliano uses vanillin for flavoring and sugar and glucose syrup for sweetening. Caramel and tartrazine are used to achieve Galliano's bright yellow color."

 

Anise. Good for Tim but bad for everyone else. (Smile). Too bad no one else likes black licorice.

Second. What is this sticker on the top of the bottle? It seems to be a tax stamp, and that is something I have never seen before. After doing some research on liquor tax stamps in the US it seems that all liquor bottles were stamped until the mid 80's. Thankfully given the wonders of the internet I don't have to guess. Some very nice person did the research and I can determine that this stamp was in use between 1944-1960. So at a minimum this bottle is 11 years older than I am. I asked my parents and they have no idea where it was from or where it came from, so that part is going to stay a mystery. As for the taste, I think this bottle will make it to New Years before any more evaporation so I'll save it till then.








8-6-2019

Back again

Ok, that was a longer break than expected. It seems that once you are out of the habit, it's very hard to get back into the habit. I'm just back from my 30th year high school reunion, so I'm hoping to use that for a springboard. I have about 4 trips queued up without webpages, and I think I'll make a page for the reunion cause it will go nice with the 15year page I already have. I add a few pages to the Travel Pictures site to try and make some headway.


4-2-2019

Welcome 2019

So easy to lose track and not make any updates. One small addition from 7/28 is the "Where was that picture taken Page. A rather interesting investigation. I have a fair amount of ideas on where to go from here, but seem to be lacking a spark at the moment. I'll see what I can do.


1-10-2018

Welcome 2018

A new year and another time for an "I'm not dead yet" post. No big projects over the last 6 months but a bunch of really great trips. As always I need to update a bunch of pages.

The Eclipse was a trip to remember for all time. If you haven't planned yet you still have some time to plan for the April 8, 2024 eclipse. After that you will have to wait till 2044. The Guys trip and hike to the top of Grandfather MT NC was great, but brutally hard. I'm glad I went, but don’t have a great desire to hike it again.

The book "We are Legion, We are Bob" was fantastic. Definitely going on the recommendations list.

Game wise, while only about a 4 hour game The Stanley Parable was a blast. Somehow I had also missed the excellent game "Portal". Thankfully I was able to pick up a copy on the Steam Winter sale for $2. An excellent buy.


6-21-2017

Music Fun

Not much earth shattering over the last 3 months. The project to get back into digital music has taken up pretty all my spare time. I did finally get a webpage up to record some of my thoughts on the project. You can find it under the "Electronic Music" link. I'm finally over the initial hurdle of getting started and it is starting to get enjoyable instead of just frustrating. Now my only issue is that I'd rather play around with the software than update the webpage telling what I'm doing. I'll consider this a fine problem to have.


3-21-2017

Nope, still not dead.

It's always amazing to me to look and see what my last webpage update was and find that it's over a year old. Or in this case more like a year and 4 months. Wow! So the last time we met, I had been at my job at the ABA for 3 months. Yep, still there, still loving it! Hard to image a better job with better people. Ok, I'll try and complain… "The bread at the free lunch was a little dry"… Yep. That’s about it. To put it poetically "All the challenge you can take, but with a support staff as deep as the ocean". You really can't ask for more than that.

On the vacation front, we are on a holding pattern for a while as Louise had foot surgery last month and we are waiting to see how it all plays out. While she is in a cast, it's just a sit and wait. Afterwards we hope that the sky is the limit.

Book wise. It's been poor. I have a couple that I'm finishing that finally look good. If they end well, I'm planning on adding them to the recommend list.

Computer games of late have been poor. Then again looking at my last update I never added "7 Days to Die" which sucked up 100's of hours so I guess I just need to update the recommended list.

The current project that is sucking up all available time is a new page where I talk about how I'm trying to get back into digital music production and how it's changed in the last 30 years. Page is still pending.

Here is hoping that your 2017 is grand!


12-11-2015

The GSUMC Section

The new GSUMC section is complete. Or at least as complete as I can make it without someone sending me some more pictures. I've posted every picture and memorabilia I have and I've purchased copies of the musicals for which I had nothing. I'm just waiting for my new record player to arrive from Amazon so that I can digitize the One Small Child album.


10-13-2015

Odds and Ends

Nothing of earth shattering interest the last few months. I'm Still at the ABA and still loving the new job. I think everyone should work at at least one really sucky job, just so you have the proper appreciation of a great place to work.

If you are into crafts at all, or just really like tech, I just saw the demo for the Glowforge. A personal, desktop, laser cutter. O yea, I want one of these. They plan on shipping in Dec of 2015, so we will see if it lives up to the claims. Check it out at Glow Forge

With the new job I’ve had more time to read and I’ve been burning through the books on my re-read the library project, but as a general rule less than 1 in 4 is worth mentioning, hence the lack of mentioning. If for some reason you want a list of books not to read, I was put a review up on my review page, if for no other reason that I never buy or read it again.

I have been working on the much needed re-write of the Religion pages, but it’s going slow. I knew it would be a bear, so I’ve put it off for years. Hopefully this time I’ll have something up in a month or so.



9-13-2015

New Job

A big month of changes with a new Job at the ABA and things are going stellar. They are a great bunch of folks, but the nerd quotient is rather low for an IT group but I have faith that I can turn them around.



7-14-2015

The Imitation Game

Time for a Rant.

On my list of worst movies of the year is “The Imitation Game”. A movie about breaking the German Enigma Code during World War 2. I was sure this was going to be a slam dunk. I was wrong. When I saw that the movie was nominated for 8 Academy Awards I about feel off my chair. What really kills me is that everyone else in the world seems to be missing a tiny, little issue.

This is a movie about breaking the most famous and complex code in the world, and the movie pretty much ignores how they did it.

In writing my rants I like to look at a couple of other reviews just to make sure I’m not misrepresenting or forgetting something. In my review of some of the reviews of people that didn’t like the movie, I’m even more depressed. Not one, not one, of the reviewers complained that the technical aspects of how they broke the code was omitted. All they wanted to take about was how the characterization of Turring was “mis represented”..

The only thing I can think is that the movie studios felt that any details about how they actually broke the code would be to uninteresting for the audience. REALLY? You think the audience for a movie that is about breaking a code, will be uninterested in, I don’t know, HOW THEY ACTUALLY BROKE THE CODE!.

Anyway, in case you do have your nerd badge, the videos below by a YouTube channel by Numberphile are exceptional and I highly recommend them both.

1. Numberphile- 158,962,555,217,826,360,000 (Enigma Machine) 12 Min
Numberphile 1

2. Numberphile - Flaw in the Enigma Code (Enigma Machine) 11 Min
Numberphile 2



5-31-2015

Plastic Band Instruments

Who knew?

Ok, I guess if you’re a band teacher or student you might have already come across this, but it’s new to me. At this time they have plastic Flutes, Trumpets, and Trombones. There is also a version of a Clarinet called a Clarineo but it’s more of a teaching instrument and not directly comparable to standard Clarinet. I’ve also seen a Sax, and even a Tuba, but it’s hard to find details on either of those yet.

There are also two levels of quality which makes it really confusing if you look these up. There are low cost versions specifically made as student or entry instrument to reduce the cost of learning, and intermediate level instruments that are just as expensive as a regular instrument but they are made to showcase what a plastic instrument can do.

I’m much more interested the student models as the idea of making the cost of staring an instrument lower is wonderful so this is what I information I could find on them.

Given the incredible lack of YouTube videos featuring these products, they still must be pretty rare and very new. There are very few videos and none of them are very old. It’s impossible at this point to determine if they are not popular because they are not any good, or if music teachers are not grounded in the reality of cost and / or idiots. If I read one more “recommendation for student flutes” that recommends a $600-$900 Yamaha flute as a “good entry level student flute” I’m going to assume idiots but at the moment they really are just to new to recommend at this point.

To sum up the details below. The plastic versions of the Flute, Trumpet, and Trombone cost about $160 while a metal version runs about $350. There is no plastic version of the Clarinet yet.

Flutes
The Nuvo Student Flute can be purchased new on Amazon for about $180. In comparison a Gemeinhardt Student is about $320 and an ArmStrong (Conn Selmer) for about $350.

The Website says it was invented “after 2009” but the oldest video on YouTube is barely 3 years old, so I’m thinking it’s probably only been available for actual purchase for about 2 years.

Amature: Nuvo vs Brannen Silver Flute (an expensive 12K flute)
Pro: Display Booth and Product Demo

Trumpets and Trombones
The pTrumpet and Tromba Trumpet are about $150. In comparison a Prelude Student Model is about $330. For the Trombone, both the pBone and Tromba Trombone are about $180 while a Prelude Student Model TB711 will set you back $450.

The two leading manufactures are pTrumpet and Tromba. From the initial YouTube reviews the Tromba Company seems to be ahead. Once again, good videos are hard to find at this point. Another company called Tiger is also trying to get into the market and they have a Tuba.

Comparison: pTrumpet and Tromba Trumpet. Details
Pro: pTrumpet, Alison Balsom
Pro: Tromba Trumpet, James Wil



3-16-2015

Just Checking In

It’s been a while since I had any posts and I figured I should write something just to let everyone know I’m still alive.

I’ve actually been making lots of small updates in the background but these notes belong on the updates page so I’ll reference the page here in case you have any interest in what goes on behind the scenes of a web page.

Updates



9-10-2014

Cruise Ships and Technology

After our recent trip to Bermuda on the Royal Princess Cruise line I was struck but just how behind the times cruise ships are in general.

The ship itself is a marvel of Engineering and the technology used to manage the ship is great, but the technology and experience for the passengers is still stuck in 1990. For example, if you want to know what activates are happening on the ship, you have to carry around a piece of paper with the days itinerary, if you want to make a dinner reservation, you have to go to the actual restaurant, If you want to know the ships current status, you have to physically go down to guest services area, etc, etc.

The words “there ought to be an App for that” spring to mind instantly. The Ski industry and the Vail properties in particular did a major upgrade 3 or 4 years ago. Every time you get on a chair lift it tracks your time and location. While on the chair lift you can see how many vertical feet you have skied, or where you are, or even use it as a tool to tell someone else where you are make a reservation for dinner before you even get off the slopes. Rather nifty.

Dinner and dining is another area where the industry needs to catch up to the times. Many cruise lines still insist on the traditional, 2 dinning times, 8 person tables where you get to dine with strangers, and a mandatory formal wear night.

Interestingly after looking this up I found other articles saying the same things and it sounds like the cruise people are listening. The very ship we sailed on is scheduled for a retrofit next year which will add among other items full ship wireless and an App to keep up with all of the activities. There has also been a push to offer an alternative flexible dinning option or add a second restaurant entirely. They have also added some two top tables in case you are not feeling social.


6-27-2014

The Cups Song (You’re going to miss me when I'm gone)

The Cups Song (You’re going to miss me when I'm gone)

When I saw the music video for this song I had no idea it had already been an Internet fad for a couple of years. I only realized it was after trying to find the video on YouTube and running across hundreds of variations. My intention was to track down the history of song, but when I was almost finished, I found a web page where someone had already written about this and done it better. Anyway, go here and just read the article from Amanda Dobbins and Linsey Fields.

Evolution of a Song
Vulture.com

In case the link goes down
1928: The Original Carter Family records "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?"
1937: J.E. Mainers Mountaineers record "Miss Me When I'm Gone"
1987: Rich Mullins uses the Cup Game in his "Screen Door" music video.
1989: The Tanner sisters perform the Cups routine on season three of Full House.
1999: The Zoom kids teach Cups to a new generation of PBS viewers.
2009: Lulu and the Lampshades pair "When I'm Gone" with the Cups game.
2011: Anna Burden's Cups video gets featured on the front page of Reddit.
May 2012: The Stella Sisters do the Cups routine to "Call Your Girlfriend."
September 2012: Anna Kendrick performs Cups in Pitch Perfect.
Early 2013: America's teens put hundreds of Cups videos on YouTube.
June 2013: Anna Kendrick's "Cups" remix hits the Billboard "Top 10."

That being said. I think the story is still incomplete. In the modern world a a viral video, meme, fad, or whatever you call it has a life of it’s own. In looking at a couple I think that many of them go through the same phases.

Phase 1: World Wide
Which you can just simply to “sooner or later a group of Japanese people will be doing this and record it”

Cups Song in Japanese
Japaneses

Phase 2 : Parody
Anything this popular, becomes annoying, and the jokes will start. This reaches it’s peak when the parody become a piece of work in it’s own right.

Cups Overly Attached Girlfriend (parody)
Girlfriend

Cups of Love (parody)
Love

Phase 3 : Bigger Production
And then someone will do the original Bigger and Better.

Cups by Kurt Schneider 4 group
Kurt Schneider



6-27-2014

Inmate Locator

Wrong I tell you, just wrong. Go here, type your name, see where you've been, or not as the case may be.
Federal Inmate Locator




6-27-2014

Minecraft Shaders

Yep, It’s Minecraft time again. This time it’s Minecraft with an advanced shaders mod and high a quality texture Pack.

For the non-computer nerds out there, every 3D program be it a game or an animated movie works in the same manner. The program makes an object in wireframe (think those early computer images that were just lines in black and white), in the case of Minecraft it makes a box. Then the program applies a picture (texture) to the block to make it look like something, say grass. It then tints the picture of the grass according to light to make it look like grass in sunlight or grass in shadow (shader).

The quality of the image is based on 1. How detailed the wireframe object is 2. How detailed the texture is that you apply to the wireframe and 3. How realistic your shading program is. (Then throw in a couple of odds and ends like moving textures just to confuse matters)

In most games all of this is hidden from the player, but in Minecraft it lets you play with everything if you wish.

The default texture that Minecraft applies to every block is a picture that is 16x16 pixels (dots). This why they call it an 8bit looking game (If you want to know why a grid of dots 16x16 is called 8bit, check out my Graphics Tutorial cause it’s a long story). What is great about the game is that they allow you to easily swap out the 16x16 textures for larger textures that are 32x32 or even 128x128. Yes this will cause a slow down in your computer, but many modern computer can do this without issue.

The second thing is that it’s possible (while difficult) to swap out the existing shader engine with a different one. Once again, the default Minecraft shader was created as a balance between looks and processing power. Some of these Mods take an extreme amount of processing power, but the effect is simply stunning. It’s hard to believe these images are from the original game.

See the Official Shader Video made by the creator here
Sonic Ether Shaders

Below are some random screen shots that I took of our world using a shader mod and texture pack.
Sonic Ether's Unbelievable Shaders SEUS
ChromaHills 128 texture pack made for SEUS






6-27-2014

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park has an excellent Flicker page where they post the photos of the yearly road work involved in plowing the Going to the Sun Road. The pictures are well done, and there is just something neat about viewing pictures of someone clearing 10’ of snow from a road in June when its 95 degree’s here in Raleigh. Definitely check it out.

Glacier National Park Flicker Page
Glacier Flicker

This picture was from 6-25-2014




6-26-2014

Kids React Videos

I did mention I had some free time recently right? So, catching up on this a couple of years to late, I found a series of YouTube videos called “Kids React”. While many of them have over acting, and some are less interesting than other, there are moments in many of these that are pure gold. They have since expanded the series to “Seniors react” and “Teens react” so there should be something for everyone. Some of my favorites are below.

Kids react to Walkmans
Walkman

Kids react to rotary phones
Rotary Phone

Kids React to Old Computers
Old Computer

Elders react to Google Glass
Google Glass

Generic
“Americans Taste”
Americans Taste


6-26-2014

Frozen

So we finally saw the move Frozen. It was good and worth watching but it’s not going to become our new favorite.

If nothing else you have to watch it so that you can then watch the Parodies. OMG, 5 out of 5.

How Frozen Should Have Ended (Frozen Parody)
How it should have ended

Will You Help Me Hide a Body (Frozen Parody)
Help Me Hide a body


6-26-2014

Catching Up

It’s always interesting when I think about adding another entry when I realize it’s been over a month or longer since the last time I wrote anything. I wonder if I’ll look back at this in 10 years and go “WTF was I doing?”

The library re-read project is still going. I’m on the C’s with Jack Chalker but I’ve skipped ahead and read some of my Heinlein’s. I’ve put a handful of reviews up, but there is nothing significantly interesting to make note of. As a general rule, I think I’m keeping less than half after the re-read.

We added a new board game to the pile with a copy of Pandemic. While we need to play it a couple more times, this one is definitely worth mentioning. Its another co-operative game and in this one you are one of a bunch of scientists trying to save the world from a plague.

Louise has been traveling a lot for her job, so I’ve had far to much time for myself so I’ve been ‘geeking out’ more than usual.

I’ve caught up with the most recent episode of Dr. Who. (Highly recommended)

I’ve played a bunch of video games including a second round of “Don’t Starve”. Yes the game I rage quit a couple months ago was back on the play list. I figured I need to complete the adventure mode just so I could forget this game and stop playing. In retrospect I don’t think I’ve ever had as hard a time or died so often while cheating. SOB! It took me 3 tries even when cheating to complete this.

My computer crashed corrupting the Windows Startup files. With everyone in my magazines talking about how incredible SSD (Solid State Drives) were, I thought I would just switch since I was rebuilding anyhow. I’m not that impressed. Personally I’m not seeing any difference. That being said, I did swap out my media and travel laptop with a SSD and it was worth every penny. I guess YMMV.

Along with catching up with Dr. who I was able to spend way too much time surfing YouTube videos. Nothing like YouTube to catch up on Pop Culture. This is getting long so I’ll throw those in a separate entry.

The Scan the Family album project is still in progress. I swear that closing out the last 10% of a project seems as difficult as all the work to get you to this point. It’s also about this time that you start to get “project scope creep”. In this case it's good as I always intended this, but it’s hard to get a sense of accomplishment if you never really “finish” a project. Again, this will be a separate entry soon. The short of it is, after you have scanned all of the pictures and you want to share them, whats the best way to do so? Still pending.

If I haven’t mentioned the online software store called Steam, or the Service called Steam Alerts yet, just go to both. The largest advantage PC gaming has over consoles is the availability of cheap games. These two sites will let you capitalize on this to the extreme. The Steam Summer Sale normally starts around the 4th of July so it’s time to set your alerts.

I’ve been recommending the books “Ready Player One” and “Live Free or Die” for a while now, and the response has been extremely positive. If you like Sci-fi and have not read either look them up.

Until next time.



5-27-2014

Space Team

Ipad Game. Free. Co-Op, multiple users in the same room, each with their own iPad. It’s fun if a little silly. While it’s not something you will play all night, it's fun while it lasts.

During the game each player receives orders across the top of their screen like the below “Set Finite Plexus to 3”. The catch is that you may or may not have the “Finite Plexus” control on your screen (unlike the picture below). If you don’t have the control you have to shout the order out so that the person that does see the control can make the adjustment. It quickly gets as crazy as it sounds.



4-30-2014

Another hand full of small updates

A number of updates, but all for books and comics I can’t recommend. Similar to movies, most of the time when a book series is expanded upon, it's rarely is as good as the original.


4-1-2014

Thoughts about Documentation

I had a really long entry about documentation but I was tired of typing it before I finished, so I knew you would be bored to death as well. When you start to ramble on and on, it’s best to regroup and think of a way to make your point shorter and more straightforward.

When designing good documentation ask yourself the following. Should you follow the approach of the now discontinued Encyclopedia Britannica, or should you follow the approach of the world’s largest and most popular encyclopedia (Wikipedia)?

On one hand you have a product that is highly standardized and where everything is reviewed and cross checked. It has great attention to look and has stringent change control. Unfortunately this also makes it hard to update, change, or expand.

On the other you have a product so popular and useful that its very name has become a verb.

It’s not an accident that the product that is easy to change and update, gets updated frequently. It’s also no accident that the product that is easy for anyone to add content to, has more content than any person could read in a lifetime.


2-18-2014

Small Updates

It may look like I’ve been quite but I’ve added a handful of small reviews in the background. Unfortunately none of them have been worth a solid recommendation. The new job has also put a crimp in my frequent updates but I hope to start using it for some ideas for new entries.


1-26-2014

Re-Reading the Library

Hard to believe that I started this over 2 years ago. As I'm only on authors who's last names start with a "C", My initial thought of 16 years to re-read everything is now looking like it may not be far off the mark.

While I have found some hidden gems, as a general rule most of these have been pretty bad. There were some authors (Anthony) where I had dozens of books, and almost all of them were below average. There were also entire series where I just could not read past the first book. It is truly interesting how much your tastes change in 20 years. It makes me wonder just what I'll be reading 20 years from now, and which books will make the cut in 2034.

What I am having the most fun with is reading "about" the books and the authors. Unknown to myself, many of the books are part of larger series or the author has written more books to the series decades later. There are authors who wrote under many pen names, authors that only wrote a single sci-fi book but wrote many other novels, and authors who were never heard from again after a single book. If you are interested in the history or trivia of a book, this is the golden age.

For reference I'll repost my original thoughts below.

-------------------

9-9-2011
The Idea: Re-read my entire Sci-fi library from start to finish.

I’ve been collecting and reading sci-fi for 30 some years and have a nice collection of about 800 books. A few I’ve had since the beginning and others I’ve just added. I’ve never kept anything I didn’t plan on reading again, and the collection has had a couple of purgings, most recently due a move where I got rid of 25%. So now the collection fits comfortable on the three bookcases and I enjoy the look for its own sake.

It started with an inventory. I had purchased two books by mistake that I already owned an figured it was time to get a list of everything so I didn’t waste more money. (As a side note, Wikipedia is wonderful for determining the order of books in a series. Ten years ago you had to rely on the grace of the publisher to print the series order in the front of the book. The problem, is that some of these series have been in progress for 20 years and have multiple publishers and each publisher only cares to list the books that they personally published.)

Anyway, as I was cataloging the books I found more and more that I realized I had not read some of these in a decade or more. It started off as a joke when I made the comment I should just re-read the entire library but at 2 books a week it would take 16 years to finish. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. If I could add a short review of each book while doing so, I could make an entire project out of it. And so it begins.


1-21-2014

New Job

The great news is that after 6 months of unemployment I start my new job tomorrow with United Therapeutics. The “O Crap” part is that they want me to start tomorrow so I’m trying to get all of those projects that were “mostly complete” wrapped up. Starting with the web page, here are some odds and ends.


1-21-2014

That didn’t last long

Last month I was talking about a great program for Free Remote Desktop sharing and today the news is that Log Me in is now cancelling their free service and going for a pay only service starting at $99 a year. I sure can pick em.


1-16-2014

Updates and Broken Links

I did another rewrite of the Reviews page. I think I finally got a format that will work for everything.

I also Fixed a ton of dead links. I see now why major sites have software that will check for links automatically. As for myself, I think I'm just going to have to stop putting hard coded links to external sites or articles.

I’m not really surprised that most of the links I had to sites about religion or politics were dead as those sites seem to have the shelf life of the common cold. What did surprise me was that most of the links in my Graphics Primer were also dead. These were to major sites such as Adobe and the information is just as useful today as it was when I read them 10+ years ago.

Of interest, a couple years ago I did notice that some links were dead and I was having trouble finding any copies. At that time I made myself local copies in case the original articles disappeared. In hindsight this was very fortunate as 80%+ of all of the articles are now gone from the web. When looking for one article in particular I did a Google search for the article name and author and got only one search result, which linked back to my own page. Scary.


12-16-2013

Join Me

Free Remote Desktop sharing.

“Join Me” “From the makers of Log me in Rescue”. When Microsoft purchased Skype one of the products they discontinued was Microsoft Live Communicator. What was lost in this was any free program that would allow you to share your desktop computer screen with another person. Skype allows voice and video but no desktop. Microsoft Link has this, but its not free. Log me in Rescue has screen sharing, but it’s not free either.

It’s a stripped down version of their base product “Log me in Rescue” but it works just fine. About the only critical feature it is missing is the ability to switch presenters which is extremely useful when remote supporting the parents. The only way to switch presenters is to stop the current session and then have the other party start a new session. A pain, but workable. So far, so good.


11-25-2013

Scanning the Family Photos

Nothing new, but I consolidated all of my notes into one page for easy reference. If you are interesting in your own photo scanning project you might find this helpful.

Scanning Photos


11-25-2013

Age Your Own Whiskey – Time to Bottle

After 22 weeks its time to tap the keg. See the page for details.

Age Your Own Whiskey


11-25-2013

The Bards Tale - Game Review

Recommended

A trip down memory lane with the way back machine. This required it's own page

Tim's Bards Tale Page


11-24-2013

FTL - Game Review

Recommended

It’s fun and good for a couple of hours. About the only negative thing I can say is that the end game is really way to difficult. I actually reached the last battle 3 times, and then lost each and every time. It’s only $10 on steam and regularly goes on sale for $6 so the price hard to beat.

One option to make the game more enjoyable is to turn ON the option for “Show beacon paths on hover”. I have no idea why the developer decided not to include this as a default.


11-21-2013

Legend of Grimrock - Game Review

Highly recommended

Do you wish they still made games like Bards Tale or The Dungeon Master? You’re in luck. In 2012 an independent producer created “The Legend of Grimrock”. It’s a “semi real time” grid based dungeon crawl. Similar to Dungeon Master from 1987 where you have a small amount of time to make your move, it’s not real a frenetic pace and plays more like a turn based game.

This is the game I wish they had made as an upgrade to the original Bards Tale. The graphics are great, the sound is great, the programming is great. Its smaller in scope than Bards Tales with only one dungeon, but they do that one dungeon very, very, well.

Good
  • If they made The Bards Tale today, this would be it.
  • Great graphics, great sound, and just a solid feel to the game.
  • It's only $15 on Steam with regular sales for less.
Not So Good
  • The puzzles are slightly to difficult. Thankfully there is an excellent wiki online.
  • The End Game sequence is more of an action game, whereas the rest of the game is more turn based.

11-21-2013

A Great Combination

Left for Dead 2 and noise canceling headphones

Ok, Sometimes it is all fun and games. I bought these headphone for traveling on planes and they work great. I don’t know why I never thought to use them at home, but Louise was in the other roomwatching TV and I wanted to play some games loud. OMG, you never realize how much ambient noise there is in your room till its all ,,, gone. Add a pair of these to a zombie game and wow!

 

11-20-2013

Flash Games

Updates and additions to my Games\Kongregate page. Its really hard to beat free flash games. No other medium allows you such a diversity of games. Tired of shooters, or think you’ve seen every version of a puzzle game? They have games that are so new, there is not even a category for them. Hesitant about starting the next mega RPG game which will require hours just to learn to play and then 20 more hours of commitment to play? Start a new game, learn the rules, play, and still be done in an hour. Or maybe not done in an hour, I’ve seen a couple lately that will suck down 4-5 hours of gameplay.

Some notable additions are “Hack Slash Crawl” for the RPG crowd, “Not to Scale” for the Puzzle crowd, and “Dude And Zombies” for the action junkie.


11-19-2013

Age Your Own Whiskey - Update

Its been about 21 weeks now since I started the age your own whiskey and tequila. Not going all that well. If I assume a 5:1 small barrel aging that would put it at 2 years in 50 Gallon Barrels. Still tastes really bad. Given that the website says “Age your own whiskey in just 13 weeks” I’m thinking this batch may be a bust.

One possibility would be that the whiskey is ‘over aged’. Supposedly when you age whiskey its possible to get “to much” wood taste. This is one of the reasons that previously used barrels are used for scotch where they want to age it longer and smother. By using a previously used barrel many of the most volatile and bitter tastes of the wood barrel are gone allowing them to age for longer and slower.

Another possibility was that I got crap barrels. I was very unhappy when the barrels arrived when I realiazed that they were not from Kentucky like I thought. Instead the had a “made in China” sticker. For all I know it’s a Chinese wood with a bitter sap of some kind. Never having done this before there is no way to tell. I’m trying to decide on how long to give it before I give up and try something different.


11-15-2013

Don't Stave

The latest video game addiction. Combine Roguelike perma death with Minecraft crafting and night and day cycles and add a dash of Tim Burton graphics and you have a wonderfully fun and frustrating game at the same time. Just when you think the game is to hard, it gets harder. On the flip side it just makes it that much more satisfyingly to finally survive a full winter in the game. You can purchase it on STEAM regularly for under $10 on sale. Hard to beat at that price.

Some of the highlights are

  • When your sanity meter does down and all the graphics and music change
  • Getting all your farms working by the end of summer, just to find that when winter starts, nothing grows
  • Leading a pack of wolves chasing you into a heard of buffalo.
  • Surviving to the last day of winter, and then meeting the giant one eyed killer deer
  • Giving your Pig friend to much raw meat, and having him turn into a Werepig and staring killing everything


11-14-2013

Comic Books - Revisited

You know they always try and say that comic books are this great undiscovered art form where the stories are deep, meaningful, and intricate? Yea, bollocks to that. When it was said and done, I own and scanned about 200 comics. Ok, in truth I only scanned about 50 of them cause it takes FOREVER (known as 30min) to scan a single comic book. I quickly decided that this was just not going to work so I dug around online and quickly found that there was an entire underground pirate network trading in scanned comic books.

In truth I don’t like to pirate my media, cause I do want my money to go the content creator to create more. I actually buy my music, movies, and games. (Not to say that I don’t buy them used, or on sale. I’m not crazy.) In this case it was rather clear cut, I owned the comic and had a physical copy in my hand where I had purchased it. All I needed was a digital version. It took a while but I was able to find about 75% of my collection online. It still took quite some time to scan the last 50 or so, but it was worth it.

Reading comics on the iPad is a joy. One of the few times where the modern experience is significantly better than the original. Easier to read (zoom for old people), brighter colors (restored by Photoshop), and the ability to read in public without anyone noticing. (Its just hard to not look like a creepy old guy if you are 40 and reading a comic book on the plane).

Now to be perfectly honest while looking for the comics I owned, I did run across some comics that I didn’t own, but looked incredible interesting. I was also very interested to see what improvements had been made in 20 years. Better stories? Better artwork? Let just say that I read some “samples” and I’m glad I didn’t spend my money. After reading about 200, I can recommend about 10. Not exactly a great ratio.

I stared off my comic review page by reviewing every comic, but realized it was a waste of time reviewing poor comics. I changed the format to lump the “not recommend” ones in groups. Seems to work better. As a side note I still need to find a way to organize the reviews for everything, just have not found a good solution yet.


11-13-2013

Update

So that idea that since I was between jobs I would have tons of times for updates on the webpage? Yea, scratch that. I’ll blame it on lots of things but mostly the great summer weather and some large outdoor projects. I really didn’t think it would be this long between updates, but I did add the Glacier National Park trip and I do have a batch of update ideas.

To make the math easy I’ll assume I was unemployed on July 1 so I’ll round it and call it 20 weeks. What strikes me most is how few projects I’ve completed. It took a while to figure out where the time was going. What I finally realized was that now that I’m not working, I only work from 8-5pm. When I was working full time I would work from 8-5pm, then go to the gym, then go to the grocery store, then come home and have dinner around 7-8. After that I would go back to my room and work on whatever computer projects I had going. So what I’ve done is gone from a 14 hour day to an 8 hour day. There is also something to be said for the old saying “if you what something done, give it to a busy man”. When you get into the groove of plowing through projects it does seem easier to avoid getting stalled.

So what have I done with my sabbatical? I learned to cook a steak, got myself in shape and took a trip to Glacier National Park where I hiked 60 miles, scanned about 2500 pictures from the family albums, read 300-400 comic books, rebuild the shed, installed a rock moat around the house, visited some old friends on Beach Mt, and then again at Sunset Beach, played lots and lots of video games, played and finished the original Bards Tale Computer Game, scanned about 4 file cabinets worth of old bills, and had a great Halloween Party. Ok, on retrospect, not too bad, but I think I can do even more. Time will tell.


05-14-2013

Comic Books

The Comic Book Scanning project is complete. Now I just need to actually read all of these. When it was all said and done I only needed to scan 57 of the comic books and I was able to find the other 150 or so online. I’ve added a comics section to the review page, but so far its pretty slim pickings. Only one so far that I would actually recommend.


04-26-2013

Comic Books

I’m about half way done on the project to digitize all of the comic books I own. This has been a far slower project than I would have thought. I have been able to ‘find’ about 70% of all of the comics I own online and scanned by someone else which has really helped speed up the process.

I also found a fix for the question on how to scan them faster without having to resort to cutting them down the spine. The issues involved are

  1. The most time intensive part of scanning comics is fixing any comic that is not level
  2. The next time intensive step is cropping
  3. The Left side of my scanner has a 5.5mm dead zone and the right a 1.5mm dead zone

All of the other steps in the process can be done via batch, color, contract, and numbering. After thinking about it I noticed that I needed to scan every page with the page against the right and top of the scanner. One way I could do this would be to scan the ‘left’ pages upside down. I can use a batch command to rotate half of the pictures 180 degrees in just a minute. This also has the benefits of standardizing the crop size and not needing to cut the comics. After trying this on 10-15 it works rather well.

About the only issue I have not resolved is that you have to physically hold the comic in place while you scan. If you don’t press down the comics bow up in middle and do not scan as well. If you shut the lid, the act of shutting the lid has a very good chance of moving the comic just enough to cause a poor scan.

I’ve started to actually read them now and the results have been mixed. At this time I don’t have any that I could actually recommend, lol. As an exercise in looking how the art and writing have changed over the years, it’s a slam dunk. The first series I’m starting with is the original uncanny X-men. Started in 1963, it is quite representative of the group as a whole. That means, it’s pretty bad. Very heavy on poor dialog, Lots and lots of text, and limited colors with no shading due the printing process. I would mention the plots, but there have not been any in the first 50 to merit a mention.


04-08-2013 Seems like I missed a couple. 8 More book reviews added.
04-6-2013

New Web Page

The new webpage has taken up all avaiable time, so there have been no new updates in quite a while. I'm down to the last 30 or so reviews to port over so hopefully I'll have some new stuff soon.


03-5-2013

A bad week for audio books

Definitely a bad week for audio books. I gave each of these an hour, but none were worth finishing. I think I can list two pet peeves that are deal breakers for me in any story, be it book, audio book, or movie.

  1. A whinny or stupid main character.
  2. An undefined or poorly defined magic system.

The first is self explanatory. As for the second, I’m tired of magic systems in books and movies that simply require the main character to wave their arms around, or have a magic item. There needs to be a system to the magic, that requires skill and effort. The system also needs limits that are clearly defined to the reader. If not, all you have is a children’s story about Mary Popins that waves her hands and everything is alright.

This weeks books that failed

  • 2/5 Horus Rising
  • 2/5 Band of Four
  • 1/5 Fruit Hunters
  • 2/5 Darkness Forged in Fire

02-25-2013 Added Review: Midst Toil and Tribulation (Safehold 6) by David Weber
02-25-2013 Added Review: The House with a Clock in it's Walls by John Bellairs
02-19-2013 Added Review: Exit Earth by Martin Cadin
02-2-2013 Added Review: The Princess of Wands by John Ringo
02-13-2013

Diamox (Acetazolamide) Revisited

Miracle drug.

After 6 years and as many trips to the high altitudes of Colorado, I’ve had major and absolutely persistent headaches that just laugh at over the counter pain medications. Given the consistency in my symptoms over the years I think I make an excellent test case. This stuff just plain worked. It was a pleasure to be able to enjoy the evening after skiing instead of laying down in my room with a cold towel on my forehead. As with all things you mileage may vary, but I’m calling this one “confirmed”.

I took the recommended 2 pills on the day before leaving, and 1 the morning of travel. Denver is at about 5,000’ ft and the drive to Breckenridge is about 2 hours ending up at an elevation of 9,600’. When arriving I was very disappointed as my headache started fast and furious so I initially assumed the Diamox had not worked. For lack of being able to think or function I took 2 ibuprofen and the second Diamox of the day and laid down. After 30 min, no effect. I was considering taking 2 more ibuprofen, but that would have taken the ability to stand up and walk across the room, so I decided against it. Then an hour later, within a 15 minute window, the headache when from a 9/10 to a 0.5/10 and just disappeared. Truly strange to have something work that abruptly. The rest of the week I took nothing and didn’t have the slightest twinge.


02-2-2013 Added Review: The Tripods(Series) by John Christopher
02-2-2013

Scanners, Scanner Edges

Add this to your to-do list when purchasing a new scanner.

Check the Scan area.

Something that was not expected or obvious was to learn that my scanner does NOT scan the entire area of the top of the scanning bed.

Find something to scan that has printing right to the edge of the paper. Scan this paper when it is flush against the left, top, and right side of your scanner glass top. Then Compare. My scanner has the following ‘dead’ areas.

Left 6.5mm, Top 0.5mm, Right 1.5

The Top and right side are not an issue for day to day work, but the left is an issue. I first noticed this when scanning some old Polaroids. I did what I expect most people to do, and placed them in the upper left corner so that I could use the scanner edges to make sure the picture was square and level. The problem is that the edges of some older Polaroids are only about 5mm wide.

I know that the 1.5mm on the right side does not seem significant, but if you ever have a large picture that you can only scan half at a time, or if you are scanning a 2 page spread in a magazine, you will definitely notice the problem when you try and put them together and find you have an annoying 3mm gap down the center.

These are the test scans from my Epson Perfection V600

Centered/Original


Left


Top


Right



02-1-2013

Digital Comics: Update

Speed

After more testing, the idea of cutting the comics down the spine in order to decrease the time it takes to scan is a fail. Its almost impossible to get a perfect vertical cut which defeats the purpose of cutting which was to be able scan a page without have to straighten and crop in post production.

I did a second test last night where I removed the center staples. This was successful in keeping the images straight, but almost impossible to keep in order so time was required to renumber the pages. (I also ran into an issue where I noticed my scanner does not seem to scan about 1/8? on the left side. This needs more testing and I’ve found a few reports online and may have to contact Epson to see if this is a covered ‘defect’).

The most recent test was to scan the pages without closing the scanner lid. After carefully looking at the comic book and scanner lid, I’ve noticed what is happening is that when the lid is closed it can ever so slightly move the comic. If I don’t shut the lid everything stays perfectly centered. The downside is that the scan contrast is slightly reduced. On a first look I’m pretty sure I can correct all of this with a levels adjustment in Photoshop which can be done in batch so that would not be an issue. I’ll have to do a few more test scans to confirm.


01-31-2013

Digital Comics

I never read comic books as a kid, but there was a brief time in collage where a couple of us got interested. It was helped by the fact that there was a local comic shop near campus that was going out of business and had everything on sale. By the time it finally closed I collected about 200 or so. Thankfully I had stored them well with plastic sleeves and card stock backing and after 20 years I still having them in the closet as good as the day they were purchased.

More than once I’ve thought of re-reading them, but my primary reading time is either at work at lunch or while traveling. I must admit that one reason that has kept me from doing so is that while I do admit to being a geek, being a 40 year old IT guy reading comic books is to much a stereotype for even I. The second reason, is that after I spent so much time keeping everything in pristine shape, I didn’t want to take them on travel just to have them destroyed. The third and final reason, would be they got harder to read due eyesight. I’m sure that reading glasses will help the third, do I really need to add reading glasses to the image of the 40 year IT guy reading comic books in the break room at lunch?

And so things have stood for 20 years, until someone showed me some digital comic books on the iPad. It has taken 20 years, but technology has finally got a winner here. The combination of a portable, reasonable large, high definition, color backlit screen, makes reading comics better than paper. And being able to zoom anywhere on the page with a gesture of the fingers is wonderful.

The downside (isn’t there always one?) is cost. At $2 per issue it rings my cheapskate bell. Yes I know that paperback books are more expensive, but you can read a comic book in less than an hour (certain college friends excluded ;0 ). I have a similar complaint about the cost of all digital books. About 98% of my entire 1000 paperback book collection was purchased used.

Which got me thinking. While it is impractical to scan a paperback book, it might not be impractical to scan a comic book. And I do have those 200+ just sitting in boxes on the self. And I just happen to have purchased a new flatbed scanner and have lots of practice scanning photos.

A quick web search and yes, not only possible, but I seem to have missed the boat by 5-6 years and there are plenty of people that have already done this. In short there are a handful of comic book reader programs that are all free. All of them read the most common format which is a *.CBZ file. The best part is this is simply a .zip file with jpeg images numbered 001.jpg, 002.jpg, etc. A no brainer.

I did not find any two people on the net that have done this in the same way, but here are some notes on what worked for me.

iPad app : SideBooks

Free. It can use Dropbox on the iPad to import the comic book files which makes it extremely easy.

Resolution

I scanned each page at 300 dpi. Then resized down to a max height of 2048 which is the iPad3 resolution and saved the image in Photoshop with a medium (5) compression. Higher resolution, and/or less compression did not result in any noticeable improvement in quality even while zoomed at about 2x.

To De-Screen or Not to De-Screen

De-screening was not used as it seemed to give a softer focus that was noticeable in the text. A better result was obtained from scanning at a higher resolution of 600dpi but the change in quality was not enough to bother. Results are totally dependent on your source material. I only have a couple comics that were printed on a low quality paper with very visible dither. (War of the Gods). Most of the comics are from the 90’s and newer and show very little to no dither.

Destroying the Source Material

There is one ‘gotcha’ in this whole processed that I’ve skipped over so far. Post production. Assuming you have a good flatbed scanner, the actual scan will only take 20 secs or so. Add some time to flip the page and lets say 30 seconds a page. Given a 40 page comic, you could theoretically scan the entire comic in only 20 min. Unfortunately using this method will kill you in post production. Doing this means for every image you will have to open, straighten, crop, resize, and save. It’s the straighten and crop parts of this that will take the time, all of the others can be done with a macro. The only solution I’ve found so far is to destroy the comic by cutting it down the spine with an exacto knife. This leaves me with the same size pages that have two sides with straight edges so I can quickly scan them straight and cropped. Unfortunately it also destroys the comic book.

So now I’m stuck with a dilemma. Do I Destroy the book in order to scan it? Yes I could do this without cutting, but it will take so much longer I probably will not even do the project. I checked online and did not find any of these that I could just purchase digital copies of. I even tried some ‘less than legal’ download sites and some bit torrent sites but found nothing.

And now that I’ve started this project, I’ve notice a stack of old Backpacker magazines that are sitting it a corner……


01-23-2013 Youtube – John Williams and George Lucas

A couple of oldies but goodies. I’m pretty sure the George Lucas in Love has been removed a couple times due copy write but its up currently.

George Lucas in Love



Star Wars (John Williams Is The Man) a cappella tribute medley song




01-23-2013 Added: Review of Star Bright by Martin Caidin
01-23-2013

Computer Backups, CrashPlan

One of the items I’ve been meaning to “get around to it” has been finding a better backup solution for the home PC. In the past I’ve relied on an external USB drive an manually copying files every 4-6 months. While this solution does work, it does have some major drawbacks. After some online research two of the major companies that provide solutions are Carbonite and Crashplan. Both of these over both onsite and cloud based backup solutions. Two of my friends had tried Carbonite and been unhappy with the file extension limitations (i.e. by default they have a long list of file types they do not back up) and the with the easy of us (One person had complained that it was difficult to determine what files were backed up when). For both of these reasons I decided on Crash Plan.

After installing the software and makings some test backups and restores, I can recommend this.

What I find amazing is that the “local backup” option is free. So if you just want to buy and plug in a external USB drive, you are good to go. You only pay money if you also want to back up your data to their servers in the cloud.

CrashPlan

What to Backup

Personally I think Microsoft still has missed the boat on this and makes it way to difficult. The official answer from MS is to backup everything under the C:\Users folder, but that backs up tons of extra files I don’t think you need. Personally I still recommend creating a folder on your computer named C:\Data and then making sure you use that folder and subfolders for everything and ignore the built in \My Documents \My Pictures and etc. Yes it can be a pain as some programs insist on using your profile, but it makes backing up, much, much easier.

Some folders people always forget to backup

Firefox Bookmarks
C:\Users\tim\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\xxxxx.default\bookmarkbackups

IE Bookmarks
C:\Users\tim\Favorites

Outlook Email Files
C:\Users\tim\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook

iTunes
I don’t use this so I have no idea where it is located

Video Game Saves
Random locations based on Game


01-23-2013

Scanning Film Negatives

While scanning the old photos for Louise I came across 30-40 negatives in the shoe box. Since I had been waiting for a chance to try the negative scanner attachment anyway, it was nerd heaven.

As for the scanner I’ll give it an A. Scanning negatives requires a scanner with a back light, and holders for the negatives for the best result. The Epson came with both of these and had negative holders for sized for both 35mm and the older Medium format 120mm.

Side Note:

According to Wikipedia the most common medium format before 35mm film was the 120. Modern film cameras use a standard 24mm x 36mm negative. Previous to this the most stand film negatives were 120mm wide and had a variable length. What makes this interesting is that different cameras used different height and width ratios so while the same film was used, one camera might use a 3×2 ratio, another might use a square 2×2 ratio. Wikipedia mentions the 120 format camera were very popular from the 1920-1950 but almost disappeared by the 1960’s.

From a quick look, these negatives are square and arranged vertical on the spool. I can’t find any other information that could lead me to knowing what type of camera was used. The other half of these were stand 35mm negatives.

The first thing I noticed was that the 35mm negatives had all seen better days. I never knew how fragile and easily scratched film negatives were until looking at these under good light. All of these were in the original paper pouch the photos came in. I’m interested in comparing these to the one I own where I kept all of the negative in negative holder sheets. There are lots of articles online where people mention having to clean negatives, so the problem of dust and fingerprints is very common. On a quick look, no one else has mentioned how easily they scratch so this batch may have just been more abused.

Scan the Print or Scan the Negative

I did read a couple of articles that addressed this very topic, and the opinions are mixed. Doing the math, if you are working from 3×4.5 prints at 300 dpi you would end up with an image of 900×1350. To get the same resolution from the 35mm negative you will have to scan at 980dpi. Estimates vary on the max resolution you can obtain from scanning a print but 300-600 is the range. If we assume 600, then we have to scan the 35mm negatives at 2000dpi to achieve the same results. So if you are going to bother with this, you would probably scan at 3000 dpi because why would you bother if you just got equivalent results. The deal breaker is when you realize how long its going to take to scan negatives at this resolution. That is probably why almost all articles on the subject recommend paying the money to have a service do the scanning if you are going to scan 100’s. Yes at 0.50 per scan its expensive if you have 2000. On the other hand, it takes a long, long, time to scan lots of negatives at high resolution. The last nail in the coffin is finding a dedicated film scanner. A couple years back the leader in the field Nikon, stopped production and most of the other major companies followed suit. The home market for 35mm film scanners is rather bleak.

Personally, I’m going to scan the prints. I was able to scan in about 1600 prints over Christmas break and complete the project. I can then just spot scan the negatives for any that are exceptionally noteworthy.

Good Reference Web Pages

  • http://www.clarkvision.com/articles/scandetail/index.html
  • http://kcbx.net/~mhd/2photo/digital/which.htm

01-22-2013

Update: Old photo scanning project

This should probably be re-titled to “Scanning Projects” plural.

Jenkins Family Photo Project

I did finish the initial scans of mom’s photo albums. With the learning curve it’s hard to say exactly how long it took, but 16 hours or 50 photos an hour is a good rough ball park. Loose photos are much easier and faster to scan, so If I did this again I would definitely use dental floss to remove the photos from the albums to speed up the job. I was hoping just to scan an entire page at a time, but the when I did so the scanner software could not auto separate the individual pictures and that is one of the largest time savers when it works.

It would also save a lot of time to keep an excel sheet open and copy any notes on the back of the photos while scanning them instead of going back and doing this after the fact.

After the first 200 or so I realized that I could scan at 600dpi just as fast as I could at 300dpi. I did a couple of spot checks to confirm there were no issues with the greater resolution (like moire patterns) so I went back and rescanned everything at a minimum of 600dpi. I also did three other scanner tests that I’m still evaluating including

  • Scanning very small pictures at 1200 dpi. Some of the pictures in the album are little wallet size 1×2’s and others of note are 3×5 photos of groups. I’m hoping the high scan can tease out some detail.
  • Scanning TIFF vs. JGP. Yes all of the professionals swear by saving every photo in TIFF format and hate JPG. Personally I don’t see the difference in quality, but you can really see the difference in size.
  • Scanning some dark and/or faded prints at 48 bit Tiff. It’s possible that there is more color image in the old photos than the human eye can detect. This will let me know.
Whitehead Family Photo Project

I had a weekend trip to visit the in laws and wanted to multi task so I pulled out the box of old photos we had gotten from Louise’s mothers house about 10 years ago and took the setup with me. I figured I just had a lot of practice scanning old photos so I might as well stay on a roll.

This project was much faster as the entire collection of photos were loose photos, so I could batch scan them 4-6 at a time and use the automatic separation software.

The highlight of this was probably the old newspaper clippings. Who knew that in the 50’s and 60’s getting married was enough of an event that you got an entire write up giving a blow by blow description of the entire wedding listing every usher, flower girl, and song. It was also odd to read the social page where they had an entire page that was just a listing of “Bob Smith is visiting his brother in Florida this week” and “Jane Roberts is taking that vacation to Europe she always dreamed of”. I guess entertainment was limited.

Digitize the file Cabinets

This one got put on pause for a while as I finished the bulk scanning of photos. I’ve almost finished scanning all of the old bills material (boring), and hope to start the more interesting “misc” folders soon. I’ve been a pack rat for years and have keep every Christmas letter from Mom, any photo anyone has ever sent me, and tons of just random stuff.

The old items of interest in scanning thus far have been the letter we received while we sponsored a CCF child years ago. When you sponsor a child they would write you a letter in their native language a couple times a year. When I scanned these, the OCR software in the scanner would run, pause, run, pause, and then finally just give and save the entire thing as an image.


01-017-2013 Added: Review the Foundation Series

01-16-2013

Audio Books on CD-Rom and format Hell

ISO 9660, Joliet, UDF, Multi-session, Red Book, and Yellow Book

It’s always interesting when you think you are an expert in something and find that you have a lot to learn. Today’s example is the simple process of burning a CD with some MP3’s so that I can listen to them in my car. Yes I have a car stereo that can read CD’s with MP3 data, and yes I have done this before. The difference is that after I upgraded from windows xp, to Windows 7 I also stopped using an older version of Nero that I had. Now when I burn CD’s about half cannot be read by my car’s cd player.

After much searching the answer seems to be that there are three major standards for writing data to CD’s. ISO 9660, Joliet, and UDF. Each of these has different limitations on the file name length. To add confusion, you can also burn discs that have a combination of them, for example ISO 96600 + Joliet.

The last bit of important data is that while the cd-rom in your computer is smart enough to read many formats, the CD player in your car is not. You may have an older CD player like mine that just has a sticker that says “MP3”. Without reading the owners manual you don’t know if this means data CD’s in ISO9660, Joliet, or UDF. Your millage may vary. The first thought would be to burn the disk with all 3 formats like the option in Imgburn for “ISO 9600 + Joliet + UDF” but depending on your player you may still get errors depending on your CD Roms firmware and how it prioritizes and handles failures.

After an hour or so of reading web pages my best guess is the most compatible format is “ISO 9600 + Joliet”. Actually I got tired of trying and just downloaded a freeware burner called BurnAware that has a big button an option for “MP3-CD”. I’ll let you know.

  • Red Book – Audio in Wav Format, .CDA
  • Yellow Book – Data in multiple formats
  • ISO 9600 – 30 Character File and Folder Names all upper case
  • Joliet – 64 Character File and Folder Names upper and lower case
  • UDF – Hybrid

ISO 9600 also has Variations including Level 1, 2, and 3

There are multiple combinations like ISO 9600 + Joliet


01-15-2013

Reading Glasses and Altitude Sickness

Reading Glasses

Nothing quite makes you feel as old as your mother in law jokingly handing you a pair of reading glasses,,, and then going “Dang, I can actually read now”. Sigh.

Altitude Sickness

I’ve been going to ski in Colorado every year for 5 or 6 years now and have altitude headaches every time. After trying all of the home remedies like dinking plenty of water, eating more carbs, and even a 30 minute session at an oxygen bar someone finally mentioned to me that they do have one medication call Diamox that might help. Here is crossing my fingers and hoping this works.

Acetazolamide (Diamox) Wikipedia
01-11-2013 Added: Review for Magicka

01-09-2013

I added some reviews for Bioshock, F.E.A.R, and Serious Sam in HD. You can read the reviews in the reviews section, or just go to STEAM and purchase them as they are all good.


01-09-2013

Steam, GOG, and online game sales and distribution

Its always interesting when you are in technology but behind the curve on specific things. Not really surprising when you consider the fevered pace of tech, but I’m always amused when I “discover” something new and find out everyone else has been using it for years.

For years I’ve been resisting purchasing my games online and insisted on buying physical copies but two recent (or at least recent developments for me) have changed me into a believer. The first was when I purchased Half Life 2. After purchasing the game at a store I went home to install it only to discover that the store copy was really only an install of the Steam software after which I would have to use Steam to really install the game.

I could live with this, cause I’m a cheapskate. I almost never purchase new games. I’ve been playing games that are 2-3 years old forever and it has worked well. They are both far cheaper and I never have to worry about system requirements. So far it has saved tons of money. Of course, being a cheapskate is what also pushed me into purchasing games online.

I noticed the trend about 5 years ago when the “pc games” section at the mall stores started shrinking and shrinking. First the dedicated pc software stores like Babbage’s closed and then the stores like Kbtoys and Gamestop stared carrying fewer and fewer pc games. The final blow was when Best Buy followed suite and stopped carrying any older games or even discount titles. After that the only source of cheap older games was Amazon.

Thankfully to fill this void is a company called GOG, short for “Good Old Games”. They started a business to sell older games modified to play on new operating systems. Everything is direct sale and all games are only downloadable from their website. They are starting to branch out and sell some new indie games, so it will be interesting to see where they are in a few years. I would definitely recommend them if you have nostalgia for an older title. Baulders Gate, Icewind Dale, Heroes of Might and Magic, and Giants all stand the test of time well and you can’t beat the cost. I’m thinking the future of the company will hinge on their ability to sell newer Indie games and their ability to get games that are 3-4 years old.

The 500 lb gorilla in online game distribution is a service called Steam run by Valve. I had online used them when I had not other choice, like when I installed and played Half-Life. What finally sucked me in was there recent Halloween Sale. Almost a hundred games at 50-75% off. Five Dollars is my impulse buy price point obviously. In the last 3 months I’ve purchase about a dozen older games for the price of one new game.


01-09-2013

When you feel like saying something

I’m reminded of a blog entry written by Heather Chapman a while back. She had started a blog to write about some craft projects she was working on and wrote something to the effect of “and I’m writing this on a blog, cause if I talk about it to my friends anymore about it someone is going to kill me”. I think I understand now. :)


01-09-2013

Minecraft Survival Maps

Ok, so you’ve played Minecraft a while and now you’re looking for something a little different huh? If you’re like me, the most fun of the game is the beginning where you have almost nothing and need to find and create everything from scratch. Here is just the thing for you.

Super Flat

Ok, this one is not really a downloadable map but one of the world creation options that is built in. It was made so that people that wanted to play in creative mode could have a world with a taller height limit. The entire world is flat, with only 5 blocks of dirt. Given a quirk of the game, this map generates very large numbers of Blobs. The game basically boils down to fleeing toward an NPC village and trying to barricade it against them. Note: one of the updates reduced the number of blobs so I’m unsure if this is still difficult enough to be interesting.

Large Biomes

Like the one above this really isn’t a downloadable map but a world creation option. Your mileage may vary but if you have a starting point in the jungle or desert, or in my case a desert bordering a jungle it can be rather tough. The difficulty lies in the fact that not all resources are available in all biomes.

Survival Island

http://www.planetminecraft.com/project/survival-island-the-original-by-ashien/
One of the first survival maps but still a good one. Your on a small island with very limited resources, try to survive and prosper.

Herobrine’s Mansion

http://www.minecraftforum.net/topic/1549966-hypixel-adventure-map-herobrines-mansion/
This one can be more difficult to setup but it’s a great example of what can be done. I would say this is the state of the art in adventure maps.


01-08-2013

Minecraft, An Incredible Game

For those of you that somehow have not heard, I consider Minecraft to be one of the best games ever. Its Lego for the PC. If somehow you have missed this over the past few years, immediately stop, download the demo and start playing. Highlights include

  • Its Lego for the PC. The game world is setup so that you can move anything from and to anywhere else and you don’t have to worry about ever permanently destroying anything. If you chop down a tree and later decide you want it back, you can plant another. Did you mess up and dig a hole to deep?, just fill it back it. This level of freedom leads to a fast amount of experimentation.
  • The sales plan. The game was originally programmed by one individual. After he was about 80% complete he realized that it would be difficult to finish without being able to quit his day job, but for that he needed money. He came up with the idea of selling the “beta” version for half off, with the promise that anyone who purchased it would then get the finished product for free when he was complete. And he sold it direct, no middleman. He sold a million at $15 each. After if was finally finished he sold another 3 million at $30.
  • Procedural Landscape creation and an infinite world. That’s a fancy way of saying that if you start walking north in the game, the program will continually create the world in front of you for as long as you walk. No limit, no boundary, and everything is unique. (Yes I know there is a limit, but according to the wiki it would take 820 hours to walk to the edge of the world)
  • Co-op and Family friendly. If you have kids you know how difficult it is to find a game that you can play with your kids that is both kid friendly and fun to play for adults. If your married,,,,, pretty much the same thing. (Side note: This is also the only time you will ever catch an adult watching a you tube ‘how to’ video made by some 10 year old and actually paying attention)
  • Mods. The game is created in such a manner that the public can make ‘additions’ to the game. Don’t like the default textures, you can change that. Want to be able to see farther in the distance, you can change that.
  • Maps. Have you spend hours and hours creating the perfect map that you want to share with others? No problem, just copy a folder and share to your hearts content.

Must stop now, have to get in a few more hours of playtime. Louise and I run our own server, so drop me a line if you play and we’ll send you a link.

Fan made Minecraft Trailer


01-07-2013

Treadmill Videos

I’ve purchased and used two of the DVD’s from a company called Virtual Active and have been very happy with the results. Both the American Southwest and Swiss Alps run are excellent. After testing I would not recommend purchasing their products as “downloads only” are only 640×360 resolution. They mention they hope to start offering Blue ray but nothing yet. Unfortunately the thumbnails below do not due them justice.

  

For something similar, but different. Since I enjoyed both of these I thought I would search the Internet for other scenic treadmill videos. I found this one, which while a scenic run, does have slightly different mountains and curves. I guess I’ll have to purchase this, just to compare the video quality you understand.

Probably NSFW, Watch on Youtube or purchase on Amazon.com




12-31-2012

ITPC Data on Photos

Or, how to caption digital photos.

So now that you have 1000's of digital photos, how do you caption them? I remember looking at this very issue about 10 years ago when digital photos first took off. At that time there were really no good answers. Most everyone was using 3rd party cataloging software that keep the image information separate from the image itself. This led to the obvious problem of loosing the data, or having the catalog information become unreadable due the program no longer being developed.

Even then the most likely answer was to embed the information in the image using the ITPC data fields. The problem was that almost know one uses this information in a standard way and almost no programs used the fields.

The current status is better but still not where it should be. On the good news, The main players in the filed including Adobe support and use the field. In addition, photo journalists and the press use the fields so I think its finally ‘safe’ to start using them and to expect the information to be readable in 20 years.

The second piece of the puzzle is having ‘general usage’ programs actually read and use the information. The only progress on this front I’ve seen is that Facebook will now read this data on photos you update and auto caption them. What I’m still waiting for is for the standard windows and mac photo views to automatically display the caption data when in slideshow mode. That way I can be sure people see the information when I share photos.


12-31-2012

Fun with Scanners

We had my parents up for Christmas and I had Mom bring the family photo albums. I figured it would be a good project to scan everything while talking over the holidays. Some notes for reference.

Older magnetic photo albums really suck. Photos fall out, photos stick, etc. Dental Floss works well for removing stuck images. I highly suggest only using this for non standard size photos and putting everything else in albums with sleeves.

It will take a lot of time. It took me about 12 hrs to scan the 600 photos

Take the time to look at all of the features of your scanner. Mine had a automated method to separate individual photos so I could put multiple pictures on the bed at once and it would separate them out. For times where I could not do this (ie the pictures were stuck to the page) it had a feature to select multiple regions. Massive time saver.

Epson Perfection V600. About $180, excellent purchase. So much faster than my older scanner. If your scanner is more than 4 years old and you are considering a big project, look at an upgrade.

Resolution. No hard and fast rules. My experience was that the limit of printed photo resolution was reached at 1200 dpi. I made multiple test scans at 300, 600, and 1200. Rarely a difference. Since the time difference in scanning at 300 and 600 was zero, but it takes 6 times longer to scan at 1200, I did everything at 600. I did do a second pass at 1200 for a handful of the very best and for some pictures that are very small or have lot of people in them. I also did some test scans at 48bit. After I post process them in Photoshop I’ll be able to tell if this was of any use.

Next task will be to find a way to save the pictures with text. Trying to find a way to save them in a format that will be valid in 50 years while at the same time, being easy to show them as a photo album now. Leaning towards a PDF


12-31-2012

New Years Eve

Mandarine Napoleon

So Mom and Dad had this little airline bottle in the house for as long as I can remember. When they moved they asked if there was anything I wanted and I said, the 4 or 5 old bottles in the back closet, to which Mom replayed “which bottles?”

My best guess is that all 5 of these are about 35-40 years old at this point. I check them every year to see if the seals are still good or if they any are starting to evaporate. If they are, its time to drink up. This year it was the “Mandarine Napoleon”.

While I’ve never heard of this myself it is still sold. The best description is a combination of Tripsec and Cognac. Pretty good actually.

Mandarine Napoleon


12-31-2012

Blog Organization

I have an issue with the blog format itself. Normally if I take the time to write something It’s more for the purpose of Reference. For example I want to write some mini book reviews, but I want them all organized, not just as random posts. The same for the information I want to write about scanners and what I learned on scanning recently.

What might be a good idea is to use the Blog for quick random thoughts but move keep the book reviews on my personal site.


12-29-2012

Wordpress

Ok, lets see how this goes.

I created my personal website back in 2003 and have added pages to it here and there, but in truth it has always been a pain to upkeep. The only Pages that I’ve really kept up with all these years are the Trip Pictures and links. So lately I’ve been trying other alternatives. The largest concern I have is archival. I actually still have every page and every file from the 10 years of the webpage, but if I move to something like Blogger, will I still have these files in 10 years?

One idea would be to simplify the webpage. The two large overheads in creating webpages are the navigation and adding pictures. There is a great video called “The Machine is Us/ing Us” Where he talks about the power of HTML is the ability to separate content from formatting.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any way to do this that will not take just as much time, but maybe a hosted Blog on Wordpress will work better


10-12-2011

Word Count and Book Length

While reading some of these book I was amazed at the difference in length. So as any good engineer I looked for a way to gauge the length of the novels. And such do all trips down the rabbit hole start with such little easy questions.

Back in Typing 101, it was easy. 5 Keystokes is a word.

But if look up word counts for major novels, they count words of any length as a one word. A quick look at Microsoft Office show that this is also the way that Microsoft word counts word length. As a totally side note, think about what this means when you are considering foreign languages like German, where they love to cram words together to make ridiculously large words, and Chinese where they use single characters for an entire word or concept. But I digress.

Lets stick to English only. If you want to find the word count of a novel and you happen to have a copy in MS word your in luck. Open the program, and check the word count, done. If not, your now in the realm we all remember from English 101 called "Double space and large Font Land". Yes, major publisher pull these games as well.

How bad is it? For an example lets take two books on my bookshelf I think will be extremes. The first is a count from "The book of Three" and the second from "Creatures of Light and Darkness"

  • 47-47-46 Characters per line from 3 random lines of text, 31 lines a page
  • 60-56-58 Characters per line from 3 random lines of text, 39 lines to a page

Yep, the font size, spacing, and character count for the second is WAY greater. At average characters per page it's 1457 vs 2262, or a difference of about 50%. So a simple book length by page count is going to be a poor measurement at best.

Unfortunately, this is about the state of the art at the moment. I'll have to find out from someone with a Kindle if the Kindle includes a world count feature. If it does, this question at least could be answered in the future


9-9-2011

Re-read my entire Sci-fi library from start to finish.

I’ve been collecting and reading sci-fi for 30 some years and have a nice collection of about 800 books. A few I’ve had since the beginning and others I’ve just added. I’ve never kept anything I didn’t plan on reading again, and the collection has had a couple of purgings, most recently due a move where I got rid of 25%. So now the collection fits comfortable on the three bookcases and I enjoy the look for its own sake.

It started with an inventory. I had purchased two books by mistake that I already owned and figured it was time to get a list of everything so I didn’t waste more money. (As a side note, Wikipedia is wonderful for determining the order of books in a series. Ten years ago you had to rely on the grace of the publisher to print the series order in the front of the book. The problem, is that some of these series have been in progress for 20 years and have multiple publishers and each publisher only cares to list the books that they personally published.)

Anyway, as I was cataloging the books I found more and more that I realized I had not read some of these in a decade or more. It started off as a joke when I made the comment I should just re-read the entire library but at 2 books a week it would take 16 years to finish. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. If I could add a short review of each book while doing so, I could make an entire project out of it. And so it begins.


When I first started more than 10 years ago, this section wasn't as much a blog as an updates section. I almost always foget to actually update the "updates" anymore, but I like to keep this around for reference.

Older Posts Here