Monthly Archives: October 2009

xkcd – why I love the Internet

Every once in a while you might stumble upon something epic on the internet.  As for myself, I just found the webcomic “xkcd”.  It is fantastic and vulgar and so “deep” at times that it is  shallow.  Most importantly, I find it very funny.  It has enough science and sci-fi references that I have recently dedicated a large amount of time to reading through many of them.  Only about 400 or so to go… This one hase been my favorite so far:

Amazingly, that actually made me laugh.

What have you found on the internet?


P.S.  Gordon Frohman RULES.

School Projects, good vs. bad

The difference between a bad project and a good project at school is an interesting line. It is always subjective and sometimes you don’t even know whether it is good or bad while you are working on it.

Take my current school project, for example. My team is supposed to design a hobby garage. Now, that’s fun. Next, we have to do a thirty minute presentation. Ok. On the verification of the garage. Bummer. And there are four teams that are working on the same project all presenting the same presentation over three hours. Brutal.

Can’t wait for this one to be over…


VMware Workstation 7 Released

Workstation 7 went live last night and it looks like it brings plenty of interesting things to the table.

  • Windows 7 Support w/aero, OpenGl1.4 and SM3 hardware acceleration
  • OpenGL2 support for Windows XP
  • ESX Server Support

With a beefy enough workstation, you could setup a complete ESX cluster with shared storage and actual running 32 bit VM’s (it appears that VMware is still not making VT and AMD-V available to guest operating systems, which would prevent you from testing out Hyper-V.  Virtual Box purportedly supplies this functionality, but I have not tried it.)  That is pretty darn cool and a great resource given that a bunch of expensive hardware isn’t required to run through training labs, etc.

Windows 7 support is cool and I am sure it will continue to improve over the next couple minor releases.  It is also good to see that XP is still getting some love in the form of increased 3D support.  I wonder if that includes 64 bit XP guests?  Guess I’ll have to find out 🙂

This also means a new version of ACE, the image management tool, was released which I will be checking out…


Transformers 2: The Revenge of Michael Bay

Let me start out by saying that I like movies that include lots of action, big guns, fight sequences and lots of bass.  Transformers 1 was good enough in this respect with the nice surprise of Megan Fox eye candy and some actual humor.  If only Transformers 2 had managed to follow the same recipe, it would have been passable in the tradition of fairly mindless summer action movies.  By trying to cram too much of what made the first Transformers movie good and bring back all the flaws typical of a Michael Bay movie along with a convoluted story, Transformers 2 truly stumbles.

First off, the situation at home is ridiculous and way over the top.  College is  a circus where we are introduced to characters we dispose of almost immediately.  The sole reason the roommate exists in this film is to reintroduce us to the Sector 7 guy from the previous film.  So much failed comedy here, it felt like this whole section of the movie was conceived poorly and then edited on crack to try and breath some life into it by upping the tempo ridiculously.  Personal interactions remain baffling the entire movie in the same tradition.  The banter was almost too much in the first movie and evidently the felt an even bigger helping was needed here, which was a mistake.

Ah, hello Michael Bay.  Could you cut around anymore?  Can you ever, *ever* let the camera sit still?  It’s like you take all the cool stuff you can do with a camera and then do it every damn shot.   It is interesting when you use a nifty camera technique to illustrate a particular dramatic sequence.  Using them all the time is nauseating and disorienting.  Show some restraint.  Further, show you know how to tell a story through a steady narrative.

Finally, that story.  Did we really need to crush that all into two hours?  There are huge holes in it that are boggling in retrospect.  For example, why would the primes sacrifice themselves to hind the shiny key to everything if all you needed to do to get it back was to walk in and grab it?  Did they all need to die to do that?  How did the bad guys not know they had all those allies somewhere out there in our solar system in the first movie?  And that was the father of the Decepticons, in our solar system?  Yet the Decepticons ended the Transformers home world?  Clearly the Decepticons could have completely taken out the armed forces of the world on their little destruction spree, but they didn’t bother.  It goes on and on.  While I was watching the movie it was OK, but the more I think about the worse it seems.

Not to say I didn’t enjoy some parts of the movie.  The opening scene, Optimus’s first battle, Bumblebee taking out the tiger thing and the bulldozer bot both were very enjoyable.  Seeing the forces of the United States military was also pretty awesome.  CGI effects in the movie were incredible.

Anyway, here is to hoping they wait a long time to make Transformers 3.  So long that Michael Bay isn’t going to direct it and they can find some people to write a cohesive screen play.

B- when I watched it, C- in retrospect.  Mindlessly entertaining.  Very mindlessly.

And yes, Dave, you did tip me off to this and I watched it anyway.  At least I didn’t get tortured in an IMAX like you did…


Video and Voice communication over the ‘net

With Kristin in the Philippines voice and video communication over the internet has become more interesting and important.  Before she left, I snagged a couple of Logitech webcams so that we would be able to see each other during the time she was away.  This would be working out much better if her hotel would actually have their internet service up…

That said, Skype seems to be the defacto software for free video calling.  Last night, Sean and I ran through different products through the ringer to determine which would offer the best voice or video quality.  The software tested was the most recent version of Skype, Steam (voice only)  and Google Voice through Google chat.

One of the most interesting discoveries of the evening was how CPU bound we were in terms of quality.  My test machine was a three year old laptop that has a single core Sempron 3400+ (2.0ghz and 128k of L2 cache), one gig of ram and Windows 7 Pro.  The video quality would immediately and very noticeably degrade if I tried to *anything* but use the communication application as the CPU was running near or at 100% when ever the camera was in use.  Any dual core setup should remedy this performance issue.

First, we tried to do voice chat over Steam.  This was a disaster.  Sean and I have extensively used Steam before to do voice chatting, but for some reason last night was not the night for it.  It was crackly and very near non-functional.    We’ll have to investigate why the performance was so horrible, maybe it had something to do with using a webcam instead of a dedicated microphone? Grade: D-

Next up was trusty Skype.  This worked easily and well, call quality was sharp along with video quality.  I was able to give Sean a tour of our freshly re-floored and painted future office.  The only issue was how big of a CPU hog it was, making using any other applications notably decrease voice and video quality.  Grade: A-

Lastly we fired up Google Voice over google chat.  The installation and configuration of this application is easier and quicker than Skype given that it is a browser plugin.  It is linked to from within the Google chat application that appears on the left sidebar when signed into gmail.  Sadly, the performance hit enabling video over Google Voice turned my video into a slideshow and so overwhelmed the poor laptop that voice dropped as well.  I know the CPU in the laptop isn’t a beast, but it is a 2ghz semi-modern CPU and skype offered decently quality with full functionality on the same processor.  Google Voice is one of those perpetual Beta apps that Google releases so a lack of polish and tuning can probably be expected.  Still, it basically didn’t work.  Grade: C-

Well, that’s it.  As Sean suggested, I’ll likely be moving a PC upstairs to take the laptops spot.  That should remedy the performance issues and I will post some follow up thoughts once that is complete.


Good Customer Service, I guess…

This May, Sean and I made our annual(ish) pilgrimage to Fry’s Electronics in Chicago.  If you haven’t been to one, these places are the mecca of consumer electronics.  Huge walls dedicated to motherboards, CPUs and RAM are on one side, TVs on another, console and software on the other and host of awesome goodness sandwiched in between.   I think Sean and I spent a solid eight hours there over two days – unlike Menards, there is a good reason that this place has a cafe.

That said, neither of us were really shopping for anything in particular when we went there.  I came back with some speakers, a case, and a card reader.  The case is still in the garage (I will use it soon, I promise…) and the card reader has been working really well.   Now, the speakers are what I am having an issue with.  I bought them at Fry’s because they seemed like a solid deal.  I’ve always like Altec Lansing in the sub-$100 level category for PC speakers as I believe(d) they consistently provided better sound and longevity for the money.   These be the guys in question:

Click for the big pic...

Click for the big pic...

Inexpensive, yet decent speakers for use in the office that is going to get done someday.  They should have fit the bill nicely.  Well, to be honest I should have done a little more research.  As you can see they are no longer for sale at NewEgg and there are a lot of bad reviews that mention the defect, like the one here…

Click for the big pic...

Click for the big pic...

My set, as with many of the reviewers, got *horrible* interference unless I held my hand on the control knob.  Well, come to find out they neglected to magentically shield that component and anything and everything that emitted crap would interrupt it.   This makes them unusable around computers, which is awkward given they are computer speakers.  I finally gave in and called Altec Lansing as they have no way of submitting issues online.

*Waited on hold for 15 minutes+”

Guy: “Hello, thanks for calling Altec Lansing, how may I help you?”

Me:”Hi.  My name is Nat and I have an issue with my speakers, they are model VS2421 and they”

Guy:”Yes, they are not magnetically shielded.”

Me:”Yeah, in order to use them I have to keep my hand on the control or”

Guy:”Cover it with tin foil.”


Guy:”I need you to give me a little information, then we’ll send you a new upgraded set once you have shipped yours in.”

Me:”Free upgrade?”

Guy:”Yes, free.  I’ll just need some information…”

Of course this issue is so well known that the guy recognized the model number of the speakers and just decided to upgrade me to the $50 speakers in the same line that are shielded (VS2621 for the curious out there.) Yet, Fry’s still sells them.  That’s bogus – it’ll probably cost me $15 to ship the darn things because they are so heavy, which is normally a good thing in PC speakers.

I can’t decide who is at fault here, Altec Lansing or Fry’s.  One thing is for sure; unless these new speakers are *nice* I am taking a break on buying Altec Lansing products.


Who’s got the beef?

So, the CRV squats a bit with 800+lbs of beef in the back…  The steering was quite a bit lighter which made driving in the heavy cross winds on 218 a little interesting.

A little bit lowe in the rear end...

A little bit lower in the rear end...

It should be pretty tasty 🙂   It definitely topped off our freezer.  Round or minute steak, anyone?  That stuff just keeps hanging around and embarrassingly a package of ribeyes snuck through last years consumption. I swear that won’t happen again!

Also, I was foolish enough to get the whole brisket in one piece.  Next time I’ll order it in smaller chunks.

Enourmous brisket...

Enormous brisket...

Thanks to Dad (Rick) for continuing to raise the beef that makes this journey worthhwhile.  Next year might be a beef less year from what I have heard as the cattle yard needs some maitenance.  I’ll be more than willing to come down and put some hours in helping to make sure the beef comes back, though!  I’ve spent plenty of hours out there in the crap, what’s a few more?  😛



Tuesday night I had to skip out of class a little early, but man was it worth it.  Seeing Metallica in the Target Center was pretty darn fantastic.

I have to confess that Metallica is my #1 favorite band by far, despite the horrid St. Anger release.  I’ve been listening to their new Death Magnetic album since Kristin bought it for me (thanks, babe!) just about everytime I drive anywhere.  That said, I really enjoyed the concert depsite how much they had the bass and drums turned up.  Maybe the aucoustics for where we were (up a bit) were just off.

Of course, I forgot to take a decent camera.  Crappy phone pics will have to suffice.

Blurry pic of them playing...

Blurry pic of them playing...



Thanks to Derek M. and Kevin for coming out for the concert.  I hope you guys enjoyed it too 🙂

If/when I got to another Metallica concert, I am buying a Met Club membership so I have a shot at buying good tickets and probably traveling to another venue.  The Target Center is fairly underwhelming.


AMD launches new video cards…

…and continues to offer better value than nvidia across the board at normal prices.

The new 5750 and 5770 launched today are lined up against the 4830 and 4850, respectively.  It looks like they are about half the die size of the 4850/70 which means that AMD will be making a healthy profit on them if they get the same prices (or more, like they are currently) for the 5 series cards.  I would expect that within six months we’ll see the 5770 at $149 and the 5750 at $99 which will completely replace the 4xxx series.   If the line up for the cards moves to 5750/$99-$119, 5770/$149, 5850/$249, 5870/$349 which makes sense, that leaves a pretty glaring hole in the lineup.  Makes you wonder if we’ll see a 5830 type card packing DDR3 at the $200 price point.  That would probably make a lot of sense.

It will also be very interesting to see what the 5600 series cards are going to look like next year, but with price points and performance levels being covered it is hard to believe there will be more than two 56xx series cards available, something with ddrd2/3 and a 64 bit interface with a slower core and a speedier part with ddr3 and 128 bit interface.  My guess is the core will be basically half  of the 5750, which would follow the trend AMD is setting as that part is half of the 5850.  The weird things that that AMD is still talking like they are going to launch four lines of cards (and this is the second launch wave)- does that mean an uber-low end or are they referring to inevitable x2 launches?  Time will tell 🙂

With the x2 launches we might see the 5850 drop to $225 and the 5870 drop to $325, which would also help AMD close the gap they have at the $200 and $300 price points.  That would leave precious few places for Nvidia to make an impact unless the really drop the prices on their GTX260+ line of cards  and even then the AMD cards hold the distinction of being DX11.  While that is probably a check box at this point of time that will have limited if any relevance in the future, if the cards from both chip makers perform equivalently it would be a safer bet to take the newest card with the most features which again leaves Nvidia at a disadvantage.


Sunday night musings… (mostly football)

Well folks, its been another weekend that has swept by too fast.  It was great to see so many friends, a huge thanks to everyone we were able to see this weekend.  The big bummer about why we visited with so many friends is that Kristin is going to be in another country and seperated by a huge time differential for seven weeks.  Booo.  Remember you have friends and family here who love and miss you, baby!

There will be upcoming posts about what I am going to be doing to keep myself busy that will sound pretty fun.  The fact of the manner is that most of those things would happen anyway, it would be so much better if Kristin were here through all of them.  Let’s all hope that she has an awesome time 🙂

The Vikings game was a snoozer as predicted, although I think they let the Rams score the most points in a single game that they have scored this season, ten.  Much more unfortunate were the twins being routed in the baseball playoffs.  That means they won’t get a game two here in the cities which has to mean millions of dollars in revenue lost not only to the Twins association but to the surrounding area.  Keeping all those folks here for another two days would be have been huge money.  The best case scenario would have been splitting the first two games with the Yankees.  At that point, Yankees fans would have felt obliged to come to make sure they didn’t miss the final game of the series.  Since New York won the first two games fans knew that no matter what happened, they wouldn’t miss the game where the Yankees had a chance of being eliminated.  Joe Nathan, you blew it.

The Cyclones managed to not win their game either.  It is heartening to see how close they have come the last two games to winning.  This means that wins against Baylor and Colorado should be possible.  Let’s face it, they won two games last year.  Four or five would be giant steps in the right direction.  As we can see in the NFL even more clearly, coaches make or break teams (See Broncos, Titans etc.)  It could be that Iowa State actually has a really decent one on their hands.  A couple bowl apperances with a win would be pretty awesome and make Iowa State known for something more than their tail gating.

Kristin should feel pretty good about beating me at Fantasy Football after giving me crap about not teaching her enough about how it works 🙂  As a matter of fact, she would have beat anyone in our league.  My Pick ’em league also looks darn bleak, eight incorrect choices so far, although it looks like Peyton is giving me my fifth correct pick.  I was pulling for Denver but picked the Patriots.  Doh.  Baltimore!  You lost to Cincinatti!  How horrible!  By far my worst week in that league so far…

Work & Class tomorrow.  Yay.  😉