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Kittie - Funeral for Yesterday Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - (audio book) Tool - 10,000 Days Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - (audio book)

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Blog Archives for August 2010

The Harvest

Monday, August 23rd, 2010 - Comments (0) in Life

Well that time finally came around! After all my work protecting my peaches from the onslaught of predators, they were finally ripe and ready to be picked. The net did a wonderful job of keeping them on the tree and those bastard squirrels off. I didn't spray for bugs as much as I should have and there were quite a few that showed signs of insect attacks, but there were more than enough good ones for me.

They ended up being a little smaller than I expected, but then again I really have no idea how big they should be. I read online that once they're about an inch in diameter you should thin out the tree so they are no closer than 10-12 inches apart. This contradicts the other two things I read about thinning peach trees out:

  1. Thin it out as soon as they start growing.
  2. Don't thin it out, the tree will thin itself out.

I've tried these two options in previous years, so next year I'll try the new advice.

Peaches ripe on the tree

Ripe peach up close

They taste pretty good, but they don't have a very long shelf life. Once you pick them they seem to go bad pretty quickly. Actually even if you leave them on the tree they go bad pretty quickly too...

 

Baby Surveillance, part deux

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010 - Comments (0) in Life

The webcam that we aimed at Claire's crib works really well. I like just about every aspect of it except for the low-light performance. If the light in the room is low you really can't see anything. Even during the day if there is a storm it can get dark enough that you can't see anything.

I bought a second camera from some Chinese crap dealer online that supposedly had decent night-vision. After doing a little research I read that you can basically add night vision to any camera by adding an infrared LED array. Since your eye can't see the infrared spectrum of light, you don't see anything, but the camera can. To prove that, you can point your TV remote at your point-and-shoot camera with the screen on and you'll see the light flashing on the remote through the camera when your eye can't see it.

The camera arrived Friday and I wasted no time setting it up. Once it got dark I was very impressed with the night-vision. I mounted the new camera just below the old camera (to see which one I want to keep, if not both) and I fully expected the old camera to see the IR light put out by the new camera. However, it's still pitch black on the old camera. I haven't figured that one out yet.

Night-vision babycam non-night-vision babycam

These two screenshots were taken about 30 seconds apart.

The new camera is cool because of the night-vision and the fact that you can move it via the web interface silently, but it's a colossal failure because it requires an ActiveX control and therefore only works with Internet Explorer. I've heard there is a new version of the firmware that enables Firefox/Chrome support, but this is a cheap knockoff of a Foscam camera and the firmware is from Foscam, so I don't really feel like bricking it.

Crashing iPods

Friday, August 20th, 2010 - Comments (0) in Life, Rants

Claire had been sleeping pretty poorly for most of July until we went to visit my family in Jersey. While we were there she slept like a rock, and I tried to figure out what was different. Sure there were more people there to tire her out, but what really stood out to me was the amount of noise outside at night. My parents live near the Great Swamp and the crickets and frogs were very loud. I read online that white noise or soft music helps some babies stay asleep and helps put them back to sleep when they wake up.

ipod nanoI figured I'd try playing her some noise at night and see if it helped her sleep. I found some nature sound effects online and decided on the "forest rain" sound. I edited it to get rid of the owls and other bird noises and made a 7 minute MP3. I have a 3rd generation iPod Nano that I don't often use so I loaded it up, set it to repeat and started playing when she went to sleep.

It seemed to make a difference, or at least continue her better sleeping, but I found that at some point during the night the iPod would lock up. I had to hold the center and menu buttons for a few seconds to bring it back to life. It locked up every single time I tried it. From what I can tell, the problem is rooted in the repeat mode; it works fine in normal mode.

Then we tried Rachelle's 2nd generation iPod Nano and had a similar situation! It didn't freeze, but the display would just go blank. You'd have to reset it 4-6 times to get the display back. So lame.

I ended up making an "album" of 110 copies this 7 minute track. That gives me almost 13 hours of non-stop rain without having to repeat anything. I let that play all night for a test and it was worked fine, no freezing. In the meantime I made an audio CD full of this same rain track and was playing it on a boom box. Go figure, the technology from the 80s works better than the new gadgets.

I did a little research and found this repeat locking up problem has been around for quite a long time. I found pages in Apple's support forums from back in 2008 that described this problem exactly. I upgraded the iPod to the latest software version and it still has the problem.

Over the Air HD

Thursday, August 19th, 2010 - Comments (0) in Computers, Home Theater PC, Life, TV

So I've had my home theater pc playing back high-definition video for some time now, but now I want to be able to record HD material. I have HD service from Time Warner Cable and it looks pretty awesome most of the time, but when we would record something it would only be the standard-definition analog version put out by TWC for their analog service. I could use their digital cable as a video source, but I'd need a dedicated set-top box just for the HTPC and I'm not willing to give TWC any more money.

A few years ago I got an HD tuner on eBay but never got around to setting it up. The version of MythTV I was previously running didn't correctly detect the card the same way every time and caused problems with the other tuners. This problem has apparently been fixed in newer versions. I connected the HD tuner to the cable and it got signal, but it seems TWC doesn't push any non-encrypted HD channels. The only other thing to do was to try for the over-the-air HD channels. I checked antennaweb.org and based on my location I should be able to get ABC, NBC, FOX and WXXI.

This house doesn't have an antenna on it, so I was going to buy one, but then I found a video on Youtube about building one out of coat hangers; of course I tried building it. It took 6 wire coat hangers, a 2x4, some screws and washers and a 75Ω to 300Ω (VHF to UHF) converter. The only thing I didn't have on hand was the converter which was a few dollars at Radioshack.

I tested the antenna inside on the floor and got 1 channel. I held it up in the air and got 3 channels. I settled on hanging it up just under the roof in the garage. Getting it up that high allowed me to get all the channels Antennaweb said I should plus a few more!

my home-made hd antenna

Katielynn Photography

Saturday, August 14th, 2010 - Comments (0) in Life

Up until now we hadn't had any professional pictures taken of Claire, so Rachelle thought it was time to do something about that. We hired a local photographer named Katie to take her pictures. Rachelle found her on Craigslist and liked the pictures she had on her webpage and Facebook page.

I think she did a fantastic job! She was super nice and very patient. Trying to get a baby to look at you is tough enough, but to get them to look at you and smile is like impossible.

Claire - Katielynn photography

She suggested going to Warner Castle in Highland Park for the shoot and I'm glad she did, it was really cool. I had no idea that it was even there and I lived in that area for a few years. It was only supposed to be an hour session but it went on for about an hour and a half. Claire was very well behaved for most of it, only have a slight meltdown for a few minutes in the middle. It ended up running into her nap time and when she's really tired she laughs and smiles at everything, so that worked to our advantage.

Katie told us she was happy we participated in trying to make Claire look at the camera and smile. She said she's worked with parents who didn't do anything to help out. That must been tough; it's hard enough getting your own kid to smile on demand, it's got to be hard to get some random kid to smile.

Super Service

Sunday, August 8th, 2010 - Comments (0) in Computers, Life, Work

A few Fridays ago I found a failing drive in one of my more important servers. I went into one of my server/storage rooms looking for a spare part and I noticed the flashing amber light before the motion sensor had time to turn the lights on in the room. "Fantastic" I thought to myself, it's a Friday and one of my servers is about to explode.

dead server drive

The server in question ended up being one running VMWare and hosting about ten rather important virtual machines. I have an enterprise 4-hour response service contract on this server so I got on Dell's support page and chatted with one of their support reps.

The support guy kind of irked me a little. He didn't believe me when I said the disk was bad, and I guess he didn't believe the display on the server either that read "drive0 faulty". He wanted me to shut down the server so we could run more tests. The whole point of getting an enterprise-grade server with hot-swappable redundant drives is so you never have to turn it off. I argued with him about this for a few minutes and he finally caved in and dispatched a new drive to me.

The impressive part about this service call was that he dispatched the drive at 9:20am, and it was in my hands at 9:40am! I have no idea where this drive came from, but it arrived via FedEx in 20 minutes! I'm still astounded by that.