Archive for the ‘On the fun side’ Category

This morning, I checked my email and I received a very exciting email. Here is the first paragraph:


Welcome! You are now a New England Patriots Season Ticket Holder! We are excited to have you as the newest member of our team.

The rest of the email just explains when I’ll get my seat assignments, when they want money, if I’ll be eligible for playoff tickets this year (yes), etc… The rest of the email is pretty boring, but that first paragraph got me out of my seat and caused me to dance around house. :-)

For those of you that are curious, I put my name on the season ticket waiting list back in 1998 or 1999 (don’t remember which, been a LOONNNG time). Over 10 years. At that point I was single. I was living in Dorchester with friends. I was driving a Saturn. I was working from home (I guess that’s still the same).

Quite an exciting day. I guess the saying “Good things come to those that wait” applies to this. :-)

….but sometimes I have to wonder.

I really do live in a pretty tightly packed residential area. Lot sizes around a 1/4 acre or so. But once in a while, I really do have to wonder. We’ve lived in the house for close to 9 years now. In that time, we’ve encountered:

1) 3 separate instances where my dogs (2 cocker spaniels) have cornered skunks in the back yard. Yea, not fun. You think the dogs would learn, but NOOOOoo….. “Black and white cats in my yard. Must Attack!!!!”

2) A pack of wolves (yes a pack of wolves) killed a dog up the street. An emergency alert went out so we had to keep the dogs inside for while.

3) One night, one of my dogs brought a possum into the house. (they have a dog door so they can come and go. Brought him right in through the door) Luckily it was just a possum that just played dead on the living room floor until I got a shovel to move it outside.

4) Yesterday, when we left to head out to see “grandma” in the morning, a racoon apparently snuck into the garage and got trapped there when we closed the door to leave. Got into the dog food, trash, and probably the supply of ant/mouse traps. When we came home and opened the door, trash was all over the floor and the coon was dead in the middle of a pile of dog food. Not sure if he ate himself to death or did get into the mouse/ant traps or what.

Kind of scary actually. We opened the garage door when Julie took Ryan out to the car to get him buckled in and get his dvd playing. She left the car door open and stepped back into the house to get Nathan. The coon could have jumped right in.

Having a two year old, I’ve discovered that the DVR quickly gets filled with things like Backyardigans episodes and Diego episodes and such and that doesn’t leave room for the important things like football. At one point, the solution was to get all the episodes on DVD, which we did. However, DVD’s in the US suck. When Ryan asks for “Dinosaur puppy” (Backyardigans “Cave Man’s Best Friend”), he doesn’t want to wait 5 minutes to find the DVD, put it in, forward through the 5 or 6 “previews”, wait for the FBI warning, then select the right episode (4 per disk). We ended up just leaving the episodes on the DVR as it’s much faster to get those started.

Thus, I decided it was time to setup a streaming media system to put all the kids movies, tv shows, etc… on. I finally got it all setup and working this past weekend. What does it include:

  • Playstation 3 – this is the device that will decode the streams. The Playstation 3 has a built in “DLNA/UPnP” client so it’s really just “plug it in, it will find the server and start streaming off of it”.
  • Marantz SR6003 receiver – my old receiver (Marantz SR7000 from 2001) didn’t do HDMI at all. Thus, I upgraded to a new receiver that can do HDMI switching so sound and video from both the Comcast DVR and the Playstation 3 can use HDMI. I still only have the 5 speakers (Cambridge Soundworks) so I’m stuck at 5.1 right now. Will upgrade to 7.1 some other time.
  • BuffaloTech TeraStation Live 4TB – this is the media server that I’ve stuck in the basement. It’s 4TB of space (RAID5 makes it 3TB usable). It has a built in DLNA certified media server. Thus, just put music or videos or pictures in the configured directory on the TeraStation and the PS3 just sees it.
  • PS3IR-PRO – the PS3 is only controllable via bluetooth. That doesn’t work well with my Harmony 880 remote. The PS3IR-PRO converts IR signals to bluetooth to allow the Harmony to control it.

It turned out the HARDEST part of the whole process is getting the video into a format that the PS3 will actually play. I’ve used ffmpeg and such in the past to rip DVD’s to my computer, but the PS3 is apparently very picky about the settings for the video, formats, etc…. I had one mp4 playing fine, changed one little encoding setting, it no longer played. Very annoying. I finally settled on using the h264enc script. It has presets for the PS3 that get the setting all correct and such. With the “ps3hq” preset, it’s not exactly fast (15fps or so on my older computer), but the results are very good.

The issues I have remaining:

  1. Programming the Harmony – this still needs some work. Swapping out the receiver which is used by ALL activities pretty much required redoing everything from scratch. Just need to spend some time to get all the buttons back to working the way we had it before.
  2. 100BT -> Gigabit – it turns out, I only have cat5 wiring in my house from the basement to the living room, not cat5e. It’s not connecting at gigabit speeds. Haven’t decided if it’s worth the hassle to replace it. It’s not needed for the streaming so it’s not really a big deal.

Anyway, it’s now all working. I have my old computer busy ripping DVD’s to mp4′s. That’s going to take a while, but in the end, it’s worth it. No more flipping DVD’s, no more waiting for FBI warnings and previews, etc….

The things we do for our kids….. (yea, for the kids. That’s the reason…. )

;-)

Back to Linux

August 14th, 2008 2 Comments

While in the office yesterday (for the first time in almos a month), a couple people noticed I was running KDE/Linux on my MacBook Pro. Yep. I’ll admit it. I’ve given up on OSX and am back using Linux. I feel I gave OSX a pretty fair trial. I used it exclusively for 3 full months, but I could never get myself to feel comfortable with it and definitely feel I’m more productive and less frustrated in Linux.

My main issues with OSX really boiled down to:

  1. Inconsistent and useless keybindings – mostly centering around the End/Home keys. For those that don’t know, the “normal” binding for end/home on OSX is to go to the End/Beginning of the file. Umm… How often does anyone ever need to do that? As a software engineer, I don’t think I EVER need to do that. Very very rare. Why are there dedicated keys to do something I never do? On Linux, End/Home go to end/beginning of the current line, which IS something I do all the time. OSX uses a bizzarre Command-Left/Right to accomplish that for MOST applications. So you need a two key combo to do something that a single key does on linux. What’s worse, the Command-Left/Right DOESN’T do end/beginning of line in one of the major apps I use every day: terminal. That required an even more bizzarre (unless your and emacs person) Ctrl-A/Ctrl-E set of key combos. Anyway, I constantly had to “think” about which application I was in and map that to the correct keys.
  2. Window placement issues – when I work, I have a TON of windows open. Probably 4-6 terminals, 4 or 5 browser windows, Mail applications, rss readers, IRC client, IM client, etc…. I want/demand “single click” access to any of those windows at any given time. (BTW: I hate tabbed browsing/tabbed terminals because that’s a two click access. Once to select the browser window, and another click to select the tab.) I could never really get that to work well on OSX. What’s worse, I seemed to always need to go hunting for windows (use expose) to find thing I was just using. Example: I start writing an email in Mail.app. I switch to a browser or eclipse to copy some data, I click on “Mail” icon on the Dock, but that brings up the main Mail.app window, not the Mail creation window that I was just in. I then need to bring up expose or something to help find the window I really need. I felt I was wasting a ton of time just finding stuff I was just using.
  3. Spaces is a POOR replacement for pretty much any of the Linux pagers. Moving windows from “space to space” is SOO much quicker/easier in Linux. In KDE, the pager in the panel shows all the windows (with their icons) and you can actually drag them from space to space right there. No need to hit F12 or whatever, wait for the spaces to come into view, move them around, etc…. Also, with KDE, the system menu on any window has a “To Desktop -> #” menu to send any window to any desktop. It’s much quicker. (that said, when I’m at home with my dual monitor setup, I don’t really use the multiple desktops/spaces much. I mostly just use it when I’m away from home where I only have the notebook screen.)
  4. Lack of “gnu-isms”. Yes, the command line in OSX is Bash and uses all the normal Unix commands (ls, cp, etc…). That, in itself, is a HUGE HUGE advantage over Windows. However, it doesn’t have any of the “gnu-isms” that I’m kind of used to. “cp -a”, ability to put command flags last on “ls”, etc… Again, minor stuff, but I’m definitely used to them. (I know, install macports and replace the versions in OSX with real versions.)
  5. Likewise, not-so-good integration with some other tools that are necessary such as gnupg. Getting the gpg-agent up and running on OSX sucked. Getting it all working in Mail.app was also not as easy as it should be. Etc….
  6. Mail.app is not as good as KMail – Along with very good gnupg integration, KMail has two other things that are really important to me:
    1. Folder subscriptions – I keep YEARS/GBs of mail up on my imap server in “archive” folders. I just don’t subscribe to those folders so I don’t see them unless I really need them.
    2. The “threaded message list” in Mail.app only has two options: all expanded or all collapsed. I LOVE KMails “all collapsed unless it has a unread message”.

Anyway, I’m back to Linux, which is definitely where I feel I belong. :-)

Besides, it’s fun to hack Linux kernel drivers to get useless things like light sensors working.

Kulp Technologies is proud to announce the immediate availability of Kulp Micro Edition 2.0. This release builds on the success of the previous version to provide enhancements to the popular features:

  • Ability to produce a wide variety of stinky, smelly fluids and excrement.
  • A high pitched wail, expected to occur for about 4-5 hours a day, every day.
  • Guaranteed to distrupt any thoughts of sleep for anyone around for the first couple months.
  • Inate ability to require the use of all spare resources for the next 18 years. If you’re lucky, it will then require even MORE resources for another 4 years.

In addition, version 2.0 is specifically designed to work closely with existing Kulp Micro Edition 1.0 installations to produce:

  • A very high level of general chaos and disorder.
  • And even higher level of resource usage.
  • Several new incessant noises that will sound very similar to “he did it”, “he’s touching me”, “that’s mine”, “he started it”, etc…

Weighing in at a healthy, 6 pounds, 14 ounces, 19 1/2 inches, Kulp Micro Edition 2.0 (code named Nathan Riley) is only slightly larger than than the 1.0 version.

Julie Kulp, lead developer, exhausted but in good shape, had this to say: “9 months of sleepless nights…. What were we thinking?!?!?!? Never again.” Ryan Kulp, Junior Developer Assistant, said “MY Baby.”

More information is now available at the product website:
http://www.nathankulp.com

It didn’t take long for my son to discover the nice shiny new computer sitting on daddy’s desk. So far, his favorite thing is the camera capturing into iMovie:

ryan_camera.jpeg

He doesn’t quite understand the “baby in there”. He touches the baby on the screen and declares “Baby in there”. What’s even more confusing is when he see’s daddy with another baby. So much for no fingerprints on the glossy screen. :-(

We also did a video chat with grandma tonight. I think that was more entertaining for grandma than anyone else. It was very easy to setup though.

New Computer

April 28th, 2008 1 Comment

Today, my employer purchased me a new computer: a brand new Apple MacBook Pro 17″, 2.6Ghz. This marks a bunch of interesting events:

1) This is the first time in 10 years that I’ve had an employer supplied computer. I’ve pretty much always used a computer that I’ve purchased myself.

2) This also ends my string of Dell’s. I’ve had 5 Dells in those 10 years. I started with the Inspiron 5000, then the 8000, then the 8200, then the XPS Gen 2, and finally the XPS M1710. During that time, I also setup several Dell’s for family members. (mostly 6×00 series Inspirons)

3) During that 10 years, I’ve also pretty much only used Linux on my computers (and prior to that, it was OS/2 primarily). Thus, folks keep asking me if I’ll wipe out OSX and install Linux on it. Well, I don’t know yet. I’m going to give OSX a chance for a few weeks. Check back later.

:-)

Found this story while surfing the news sites today. Kind of cracked me up. There have been several times I’ve wished I had a tank, mostly to drive over other stupid drivers. Definitely a fun read.