HDTV Setup

So I finally got around to joining the Hi-Def revolution, and it is, in a word, awesome. I had a few of the pieces in place already: a cheap upscaling DVD player, my Macbook Pro with its new 320gb hard drive filled with HD content, but of course that content doesn’t do too much without the HDTV. I have had my eyes on the Olevia 237T 37″ LCD for a while. I had been waiting for a nebulous price drop that kept not happening, so I watched it for the better part of the year. That is, until mid-November. (Yes, this post is late. I’m lazy. Sue me.)

Apparantly, Olevia is phasing out the 237T in favor of a new model that supports native 1080p resolution (as opposed to the 720p of the 237T). Since I can’t tell the difference between 720 and 1080 on a screen that size, I jumped when Target dropped the price from $749 to $598. (Yes, I value my money and will wait for a good deal. I’m not cheap.)

The interesting thing is that I got the tv right as Nicky was going to visit family in El Dalvador for three weeks. That meant I had plenty of time to experiment. One of the first things I learned was to never, ever buy cables from anywhere other than Everywhere else is a ripoff. Seriously, I bought three HDMI cables, an optical cable, toslink adaptor (for MacBook pro audio out to standard optical) for ~$25. Shipped. Add a DVI to HDMI adaptor for ~$4 shipped from Amazon and that’s every cable I need for less than a single HDMI to DVI cable from the Apple store. And the Apple store is by far the cheapest brick and mortar to get HD cables from (everywhere else is $50 and up, including Radio Shack).

The next thing I learned is that HDTV’s are very light, considering how big they are. My old TV, a 29″ tube is so massive that it takes two to lift, and even that was just to get it on and off a dolly. Its REALLY heavy. The Olevia, on the other hand, is light and thin enough that I can move it myself fairly easily.

So that brings me to the current setup. Its currently in a TV armoire that I hate with the DVD player and a PS3 underneath it. I can also plug my MacBook pro for iTunes rentals, and other downloaded content via Front Row and Boxee. The PS3 won’t be staying, since its not mine, but I’ve been playing with it and on it rather extensively. One thing I discovered is that while an excellent game console and blu-ray player, a PS3 is an ass media extender/HTPC. Streaming from my laptop or file server is very rudimentary, even with Nullriver’s excellent Media Link pref pane. Also, Sony recently came out and said that they weren’t planning on putting Netflix streaming on the PS3 any time soon. (Because they want to sell their shitty PSN movies with about the worst DRM possible. Fuck you Sony.) That, and I don’t see myself putting in the effort to get really good at “hardcore” games. So that’s the current setup. I’ll post later on what I intend to add to make my home theater system complete.


Macworld: The Right and the Wrong Questions

I’ve started and killed this post a few times already. I’m finally pulling the trigger mainly because the particular echo chamber where I stick my head is still bitching about Apple pulling out of Macworld, more than a week later. The points have been made before, but they bear repeating.

Apple DOES NOT CARE about the Mac community.
Correlary: Apple is not special or better than any other random tech company. You hate Microsoft? Think Apple would really be all that different if they were in the same position? Remember how they acted in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

That aside, I should just point out now that I’ve never, ever been to Macworld. Not that I’ve never had the chance, mind you. I’ve lived in San Francisco since 1986, so my lack of attendence is mostly due to the fact that I just don’t care enough to go. Also, I will not show up to the Moscone in downtown SF in early January to say that I saw teh Steve in person. Especially not this year where its likely to be raining in addition to just freezing.

The reason why I feel like this? I use all sorts of Apple hardware and software, and evangelize it to others, but Apple is not my business. In other words, I use Macs, but my income is in no way related to them. For the work I do, any computer and OS will do. It just so happens that we all prefer Apple stuff and are funded by an independent federal grant, so we can buy whatever the hell we want.

I would wager that most Apple customers are like me. People who like their Macs, iPods and iPhones, but that’s about it. IT people aside, since they have more/specialized needs by definition, that’s how Apple seems to like it. Apple wants to sell gadgets, not be the center of a cult.

As for Macworld, Apple’s real reasons for pulling out are likely the same as their stated reason. Apple not only doesn’t need Macworld any more, but the expectations of the conference actually harm it. With the exception of the iPhone, nothing they announce at Macworld ever meets the hype. As for me, I have to deal with enough conferences, shows and the like for work to attend one voluntarily, on my own dime.

For those people to whom Macworld matters, stop bitching and whining and protesting at Apple. Again, Apple Does. Not. Care. They will not be showing up in 2010. Deal with it. However, IDG has already committed to Macworld 2010 and beyond if it reamains profitable. So what if there’s no more Stevenote? Invite someone else. Someone who’ll rub Apple’s nose in the fact that they, other than their role as vendor are irrelevant to the Mac community. Do something, but just stop whining.

personal politics

Politics and Twitter

First of all, Twitter is a terrible medium for a political discourse, but we all seem to do it anyway.

I feel very passionately about certain things, which usually end up tainted in some form or another with politics. While I don’t like to make any secret of my political leanings, I also don’t like to wear them on my sleeve, so when I end up getting into conversations with people on Twitter about things that we are passionate about, I can seem a little shrill. That 140 character/tweet limit can and does seriously change the context and tone of the point that I’m trying to get across.

So when I find myself having a back and forth with Scott Sigler about Joe Traitorman Lieberman and the spirit of bipartisanship, I end up saying this and end up with this dubious award. So while I’m not going to change my mind about Lieberman or bipartisanship, nor will I apologize for what I said, I do think that some explanation is in order.

Joe Lieberman is under threat of censure by the Connecticut Democratic party for his recent actions. Scott believes that to be a wholly undemocratic act as it punishes a public figure for the crime of speaking his mind and standing up for his values. To me, its not that simple. The fact is that Lieberman’s stance is not new, in fact he’s been very consistent with his support for the war. His views are precisely why he was punished by the voters of Connecticut in 2006 when he lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont. He than ran as an independent, and re-took his Senate seat with the help of local and the national RNC. He caucused with the Dems, allowing them to hold the Senate majority, but used the threat of caucusing with the Republicans to bully his way to the chair of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee. He has made his support of John McCain very publicly known and was rumored to be McCain’s first choice for VP. Lieberman has badmouthed Democratic policies, and the presidential candidates.

The reason why Lieberman hasn’t actually caucused with the Republicans is due to his feelings on domestic policy, which is in fairly serious opposition to those of the Republicans. My (and others’) problem with Lieberman isn’t that he disagrees with the Democrats, or even that he supports McCain over his own party’s candidate (there are several Republican senators who have publicly expressed reservations about a McCain/Palin administration). My problem with Lieberman is that he is actively sabotaging his “own” party, his constituents, and gleefully lies about his own affiliation as he does it. So, if the Democratic party of his home state has had enough of his antics and wants him to either act like a Democrat or get the hell out of the party, that’s fine by me.

For me, the act of joining and participating in a political party means something real. Its not like joining a book club on a whim, its a decision based on how one views the world and is very personal and very profound. People who join or stay in a party because they think it will help them advance are some of the lowest forms of scum (see Rudy 9u11ani). Lieberman is definitely in that category.

As for bipartisanship, right now, that’s a joke, and a bad one at that. Under Bush, bipartisanship is shorthand for rubberstamp everything we give you and do it with a smile. The thing that really gets under my skin is that the Democrats in Congress have been doing just that. They do NOT stand up for what they (say they) believe in, they do NOT fight for what their constituents want them to fight for and they cower before a president who is the most unpopular in history and considered to be the worst in history as if he was the reincarnation of George Washington.

When I say fuck bipartisanship, I’m not being facetious or a hard-headed party activist. I’m saying that the Democrats in Congress need to grow a spine, balls or whatever appendage they need in order for them to stand up and do what they were elected to do. If that means having to fight against the party that dragged us into war, poverty and economic ruin, then is that really too much to ask?


Car Loan

So I finally saved enough money to put a good down payment on a new car. A new car, because I’m sick to death of buying old cars and then paying through the nose to keep them up. Right now, I know what I want, am approved for a loan, and then they pull some shit at the last second. Now I get to look for another loan, and it’s pissing me the fuck off.

Oh well, I’ll have my car in a few days regardless, but this financial crap is just a drag.

hardware personal

Lappie Upgrade

I just upgraded my Rev. A MacBook Pro’s stock 120GB hard drive to a Western Digital 320GB drive. It was a long time coming, but it was two issues that did it for me in the end. The first was that I was bouncing up against for about two weeks and was getting bored of having to swap things on and off a portable drive. The other was that the drive I wanted dropped to $109. I had been watching that drive for a few months, and that seemed like a good price to almost triple my drive space.

I just wish that Apple had designed the MBP so that they didn’t need surgery just to replace a hard drive. The good part is that it actually wasn’t that hard to do. Just take out the screws around the sides and battery bay, ease the keyboard out, unplug some cables, pop the drive out, and boom, its done.

Right now I’m wondering how long its going to take me to fill the drive, although I’ll probably be in the market for a whole new machine by then. Now, for a new backup system…

HDD Upgrade

personal photography

Flickr Pro

Apparently I bumped up against Flickr’s ceiling of 200 photos for free accounts. While they said that they wouldn’t delete my old photos, they would be “unavailable” until or unless I went pro. I would cry extortion, but it is kind of a free service, and I was kinda-sorta meaning to go pro anyway, since it’s only $25/year for unlimited bandwidth and organizational control.

Typically, as soon as I did, I spent an hour uploading and making sets. Money well spent? I think so!

personal photography stoopid

SF MOMA and the War on Photography

Everyone’s been talking about Thomas Hawk’s misadventures at the SF MOMA, detailed here and here, and I just wanted to chime in.

My comment on TH’s Flickr post pretty much sums up my feelings.

I don’t always agree with Hawk’s actions or choice of friends (see: Scoble), but there’s no denying that he is one of the staunchest and most public defender or photographers’ rights on the net, and I think that that cause is always worth defending. I think its sad that predatory photography like celebrity-hounding paparazzi are allowed to harass people without consequence, while the rest of us who merely want to document the world around us, create art or enjoy their families risk arrest, harassment by authority figures, being labelled perverts, etc. Its got to stop.

Additionally, for someone of Blint’s position to act in such an unprofessional and hostile manner towards anyone, let alone a paying member of his museum is totally unacceptable. He represents the SF MOMA and his actions reflect the same. If I yelled at someone in the lobby of my institution the way Blint yelled at Hawk, I have no doubt I’d be shown the door that day, as would most people at virtually any place of work. If the MOMA doesn’t dismiss Blint, I know that I’ll never spend a single dime there, as they are an institution that simply doesn’t value their patrons.

personal stoopid


Holy crap! It’s been a long time between posts, too long, in fact. I’m really trying to keep this thing active, unlike my previous attempts. I DO have four posts languishing in the unpublished drafts limbo, but that for some reason or another, I just haven’t gotten around to finishing. Too much stuff, too much thinking, not enough follow-through. Whatever, shit WILL get done around here, even if I have to put myself on notice.

Wait, that’s not right…


LUG Spat

Originally, this was going to be a bitchfest about how I got kicked off the SF-LUG mailing list. The day after that incident, it became clear that I hadn’t been kicked off the list, although I haven’t bothered to find out if I’m still allowed to post. The whole thing was brought about over one of those “Linux devs should do X if they want more marketshare” conversations.

I wasn’t going to out the list maintainer at first, but I don’t think he really needs nor deserves the anonymity. (I also don’t get the sort of traffic that makes any kind of difference, but that’s a different story.) In short, the original topic had to do with high-level UI in and between various Linux distros. These consistency issues mostly stem from differences in philosophy between different projects like Gnome, KDE, Xfce, various upgrade managers like apt or package formats like .deb or .rpm.

Since it was just a friendly discussion lacking any trolls, the list owner, Rick Moen, apparently decided to step in and play the part of the troll himself. It started off fairly badly:

Quoting Paul Ward:

I think the problem is there’s no consistency for people used to the Windows or OS X experience.

You see a problem; I see something merely being itself. Ain’t
perspectives grand?

The big reason why I bought a Mac in 2002 was because OS X 10.2 on a powerbook was just that much of a better experience than I was having with either Linux or Windows on a series of PC laptops, plus it had the unix-y stuff that I had come to love!

Oddly enough, the big reason why I prefer to run Xubuntu rather than OS
X on my Macs is that OS X’s implementation of Unix sucks at nearly every
level. (I’ve used nearly every MacOS version going back to 1984, by the

What I’m trying to say is that for people who want to try linux, but are in between the levels of propellerhead and techtard, a lot of that low-level consistency has to make its way to the high level GUIs.

Funny thing: Just about every time someone says Linux “has to” do
something or other, he or she turns out to be factually mistaken. What
you appear to mean is: You would personally prefer that a vast
community of people whose paycheques you do not sign _change_ what they’re
doing at a very fundamental level, to do things in the way that you
imagine is best, probably (I would speculate) while having an at best
uncertain understanding of the details of what they do.

I hope that works for you, but I’ve honestly never seen it work for
anyone else, in the entire history of software.

And just degenerated from that point. I ended up getting this:

Anyhow, sorry, but I’m a bit busy today to even spend time reading OS-advocacy essays, which among other problems have nothing whatever to do with what I posted about before Bruce Coston suddenly gave the topic a huge yank in some random direction and then you appear to have done likewise. (No offence intended, but I have absolutely no reason to care what operating systems you or pretty nearly anyone else like and why.)

And then get get to this point:

The point is that it would be very nice if there was (a lot) more unity in the way that distros, particularly ones that purport to be mainstream products, like Ubuntu.

Actually, I think that’s quite obviously false — your “unity” is my my
“dumb inflexibility solely to cater to people unwilling to learn
anything new” — but good luck with that. (I remember the sheer
irritation value of dealing with visiting Apple “Human Interface Guidelines”
inspectors, when I worked at a cross-platform development house, back in
the day.

Which finally ends after I call his last comment an ass-tastic response to which Rick responds:

OK, we’re done. You’ll need to talk to procmail, going forward

I fully admit to being baited and not rising above it, but give me a fucking break. If Rick didn’t have time to get involved, why the fuck did he feel the need to not only get involved, but take over the entire conversation, act like a 13 year old troll, and then unilaterally shut down the conversation? What’s clear to me is that not only is Rick a fully ordained member of the Holy Fraternity of IT Douchebags, but he feels as if his tools should not be sullied by the unworthy members of the public.

I mean, is it really that big of a deal to ask the major distros that are trying to get mainstream marketshare right now to cooperate with each other, at least a little bit? I’m not suggesting that they all decide on single standards (OMFG, the horror), but to at least support each other’s standards, so you don’t need to worry if you can run an rpm on your system or not. There are those who, like Rick, have absolutely nothing to do but play with their machines, and then there’s everyone else, for whom their computer(s) are tools for getting other work done.

Computers are tools, nothing more. Yes, I’m aware of what a general-purpose device is, but that doesn’t change the fact that you shouldn’t need to know how to write a config file in /etc to use a computer. Should you know how to do that and why you should? Hell yeah! But that goes in the list of things you should know as a member of US society, like changing a tire, how an engine works, fixing a bike, growing vegetables, etc. These are all things you should know, but don’t really need to know. Rick’s attitude that people who are too stupid to use computers like he does simply shouldn’t is itself one of the most stupid comments I’ve read. And I’ve recently read a couple of Rob Enderle columns.

Rick’s shitty attitude towards differing opinions on virtually any subject makes the list a pain sometimes, and is the reason why I stopped participating. Its just not worth dealing with such an immature and hostile person, especially when the subject is just not that important.

iPhone personal

First iPhone Post

I just set up the native WordPress app for iPhone and wanted to take it for a spin. This might be very useful for me, as I don’t have to wait for time to sit down with my laptop and remember what I wanted to write about. I’m still waiting with baited breath for mobile MarsEdit, but this will do very nicely for now.