Thursday, December 31, 2009

Microsoft Misses the Target……

   Microsoft seems to be on a roll this past year.  Windows 7 seems to be off to the races, the Zune HD is all that it was promised to be.  Office 2010 preliminary findings look good.  And Windows Live is shaping up to be an excellent suite of services.

     However, there is one huge glaring hole in the Windows Live for Mobile lineup.  THERE IS NO CALENDAR SUPPORT!   WHY?

I realize that these things take some time to develop, but this has been missing for the whole two years or so that Windows Live email support has functioned for me.  Isn’t it plainly logical that the next step after getting email to sync / push to a mobile device is that the calendar should too?  I thought that Windows Mobile was generally viewed as the Mobile OS for business types, right behind the ubiquitous crackberry.

     There is the possibility that I have completely missed something, but I have been searching for two years to get this working.  I Have a nice desktop client with full calendar support, I can sync events between my and my wife’s live calendars, and I get email notices on the smartphone’s email client of upcoming events.  The only thing that is missing is the ability to establish a new event from the smartphone interface.  This is one of the purposes of carrying the device in my pocket.    I have seen workarounds that involve Outlook, and Google Sync, and jumping though a dozen hoops to make it sort of work.   That is not the point.  Windows mobile 6.5 should support Windows Live Services.  This is just common sense. 

Somebody please find a way to get the point across to the decision makers on the Windows Live team.

     Or leave a comment that points me to what I have missed….

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Busy times

all month, and not a single post…..

how boring my life is right now.  


I did attempt to rotisserie a goose.

the resulting fire melted the electric motor on the rotisserie attachment on my grill, and reduced the bird to charcoal.

I refused to take pictures of it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday at the International Convention

Its been a hectic three days….  Walking our feet off, meeting people from all over the world, standing in line for buses,  standing in line for buses………


There are simply too many pics of people we met to put up here.  The best of them will be on Flickr in a week or so…  In the mean time, look at this picture of our hotel.   notice a speck on a balcony a few floors from the top?  That is Manami standing on our balcony!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

The first full day in Hawaii

   It has been a long day……   But a good one.

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This is the View from our window at sunrise.   That is Diamond Head Crater, the short side of it anyway.

    We met some friends down at the breakfast on the third floor.  And then we went walking.   And walking.   And walking…..


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First we went to Waikiki Beach, about 5 minutes from our hotel.  No time for swimming today, so we just walked in the sand, and looked at all the weird people.  There is an interesting breakwater protecting the beach, while still allowing fish and surfers to get in and out.    Near the other end of Waikiki Beach, is the “International Marketplace”.   This is a great big tourist trap, and we got suckered into buying some nifty junk for our poor unfortunate family and friends..      Then back to the hotel to drop off junk, and we saw this……..

This  Rainbow image is unedited, straight out of Manami’s Camera!!!!P1000349

Then off to lunch, at a Japanese place where they serve raw meat, and each table has a small gas grill built into it on which you cook your dinner.  Its kind of expensive, but SOOOOOOO worth it.

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And, Manami got me my favorite Melon Soda Float!!!!!    yiiipeeee!!


Thats all for today, We are so tired it’s not funny.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hawaii Arrival

Now on the ground in Honolulu!  We were met by a noisy bunch, and herded to the hotel.  I think this is the nicest place I have ever stayed.  Mariott - Waikiki Beach.  We are on the 29th floor, with a view of the mountains and the coast.  I hope to get some good pics from up here……

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International Convention: Day 0.5

P1000282 P1000289 P1000288 P1000283 P1000290 P1000284 P1000287 P1000291 We have arrived at DFW airport.  20 brothers / sisters here and more coming in every little while.  It sounds kinda like a chicken house in here, there is so much chattering .

So far, we have people from New York, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Conneticut, and MIssouri. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Randomly Good Picture

Sorting through pictures today, and found this one.  I had forgotten about this picture, so here it is.

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Lady in Red……

Friday, November 6, 2009

Logitech Driving Force GT

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Today I got a new steering wheel for my computer!  Logitech Driving Force GT.  This is actually an accessory for the Playstation 3 console.  But Logitech, as usual provides excellent driver support for Windows support as well.   It is USB 2.0, with an additional power supply connected to the main unit to drive the force feedback motor.

     Some improvements in this model from the one I had years ago:  The connector for the pedals part of the rig is a small D-sub plug that looks like a VGA connector.  This is much sturdier than the RJ-11 plug that older models had.  The clamping system is also much improved.  The older wheel had to have a couple holes driving force-2drilled through the main body, and screws run into the tabletop to hold it firmly in place.  No such problems here, I added a piece of non-skid rubber under the main body and it clamped very nicely to that piece of 1/2” plywood.  I added zip ties around the body and through the plywood just for good measure.driving force-3

       I then drilled two 1/2” holes in the plywood, and two 1/4” pilot holes in  my desktop.  And attached the panel with 1/2” lag screws.   Putting it slightly back on the desktop lets the lower part of the clamp to sit on the desk instead of hanging off the front as it was designed.  The result is that the wheel is slightly tipped up toward me.  That’s good, as I always have the tilt steering in my car as far up as possible.  And its a solid mount, this thing does not move!  I can get rough with it as much as I want, with no worries about it sliding off the desk.  A few turns of a wrench and I can set it on a shelf to the side.  As far as game compatibility goes, I really don't expect any trouble.  I only have “Need for Speed: Shift” installed right now, and it worked on that by simply selecting “driving force gt: separate pedals” from the game menu.

       In “Shift”, their are customizable options for steering response, and throttle response, and how much force feedback you get from the wheel.  I still have to play around with those settings and be sure I got them as best I can.   And I have to learn how to race all over again!

     The only problem remaining is to find a way to secure the pedals so they aren't sliding around on me.  Maybe I will build a wedge shaped box down there that can do double service as a footrest and a pedal-stand.driving force-4

Many other people have posted blogs about building car seats into desk chairs.  Some for racing games, others simply because a car seat is designed for sitting for a while with minimum fatigue and discomfort.  That may be my next project!  This cheezy thing I am sitting on now causes fatigue just looking at it, and if I sit here too long, my legs go to sleep.  Then again, perhaps that is motivation to get out from behind this monitor and do something for real………

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Gathering Storm


Once again, it’s book review time.   And again, its a continuation of a series  from an author who has died.

James Oliver Rigney Jr. (oct 1948 – Sep 2007) wrote under the pen name of Robert Jordan for a good deal of his writing career.   He was an engineering student, and a naval officer in his earlier life, but most of us only knew him through the characters on the page. A great many pages!  I never met him myself, but I, like many others feel that I know something of who he is because of his stories.  To learn about the Man, type his name into Google, or Wikipedia, and you will get a sea of information and tributes.  Mostly you will see the hordes of loyal fans of his “Wheel of Time” series.  As epic fantasy goes, it is the best.  People tend to compare any fantasy type story to Tolkien, as did I.  This is an error.  Tolkien established the genre of fantasy, and even made it sort of respectable.  Jordan took it to another level entirely.  Attention to detail.  Deep characterization.  Introducing us to characters that were real people,  complete with quirks, imperfections, and all the varied facets of real life.  This is where Jordan surpasses Tolkien, in the characters.  Of all the characters in Tolkien, only Frodo Baggins seems to me to be painted as clearly, and as completely, as the whole horde marching through Jordan’s world.     Every Wheel of Time fan you ask will have a favorite character, (mine is Mat Cuathon) and also a most hated character (Perrin Aybara).  And if you ask us why, each of us will launch into a detailed and possibly high volume rant about these people, just as if they were our neighbors.  When I stopped to think about this, I realized that this is how I will always define the quality of a novel.  Love them, or hate them, are the characters my neighbors?  Robert Jordan took us to visit those neighbors 11 times.  We know them well…..


           Until late 2007, I had never head of Brandon Sanderson.  Neither, I think, had any of Robert Jordan’s family or assistants.  Brandon wrote a nice eulogy for Jordan, and when the widow read it, she wanted to speak with the writer.  Make a long story short(er), Brandon Sanderson was entrusted with the task of finishing the story, taking us on our last visit to this place.  One book turned into three books, and finally we got the first one!  Or, the 12th one!  Or, the first part of the last one!  Whatever!

     Simply put, its GOOD.

    I was not able to tell for sure what parts were written by Brandon, and what parts were written by Jordan.  We know from statements that Brandon made that Jordan had successfully written whole passages, and that he had a massive amount of notes and back story to work with.  Brandon’s job was to fill in the gaps and make those notes a complete story.   In one place I was stuck with the thought “Brandon must have written this bit”.  When Aviendha, thinking of the spears (and the warrior lifestyle she has left behind), thinks of her “self forged into those spear heads as surely as the carbon that strengthened them”.  Not to say that Jordan lacked the knowledge of Chemistry or Metallurgy to understand carbon steel forging.   But, the phraseology seemed to have a different feel to it.

   As you might expect from the final parts of a story, there is more action in this novel.  Storylines wrapping up.  Questions answered.  (No, we don’t know who killed Asmodean, and Bela may actually be a darkfriend)     Rand hits a new low in his internal struggles, but it seems that he has hit bottom and things are looking up.  The White Tower is no longer divided.   And, Gawyn Trakand is a simpering idiot, who finally makes up his mind.

    I don’t know how long the wait will be until we get “The Towers of Midnight”, but it is too long! 

   One thing I would like to say to Brandon, and to Harriet……..    I think Jim would be proud.   Good Job.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Windows 7 Clean Install with Upgrade Media


Quick post here, since I only have minimal software installed at this point.

I have deleted my partitions, installed Windows 7 from a family pack upgrade disc without a key code, and then reinstalled over the top as an upgrade with the key code.  then I activated it successfully.  The I tested the activation by installing Microsoft Security Essentials.


This answers the big question of installing!


10-25-09 :  update

I also did a custom install on a machine running Windows 7 RC.  took the upgrade license key without any trouble.  later i will delete the windows.old folder.

Whopper. Really………..






Only in Japan!

    Engadget has a story up this morning about this weeks Weird burger from Japan.  The Windows 7 Whopper!  7 meat patties!    

   The first 30 customers each day get it for 777 yen, around 9 dollars.  After that it goes up to the set price of 1450 yen, around 17 dollars.  This thing looks like a heart attack on a stick.   How could you even get a corner of it in your mouth?

  While visiting Japan last year, I tried the “Mega Mac” ( a Big Mac with 4 patties instead of 2), and the Teriyaki Burger. Both offered by the Japanese McDonalds stores.  They were awesome, but the Mega Mac was really more than I cold handle.  This Towering Meat Stack is almost frightening!

Monday, October 19, 2009

And Another Thing……….




May 11, 2001 marked a sad moment in time.  We lost Douglas Adams, the noted author of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. We thought our hitchhiking was done………  Fast forward to October 12, 2009.

      Eoin Colfer has picked up the towel and moved the story farther down the spiral into madness.  I have never read his previous works, the “Artemis Fowl” series, so I had no idea what to expect of this story.   “And Another Thing” picks up right at the end of “Mostly Harmless”, which I admit had a weak ending.  Douglas had been quoted as saying he wanted to continue the story a bit farther, not leaving the bleak state of affairs at Stavro Mueller’s Beta.  What we have here is a charming mix of Vogons, Grebulons, Deathrays, and “Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged”.  Arthur Dent and Company careening from improbability to the truly bizarre.

      This is the first of two series that are being taken on by a new author after the original passed away.  I expected that this book would not sound like Douglas.  Feel like Douglas.  The best description of the writing style I can think of is that here we are looking in on our old friends, but through a different window.  The characters are well portrayed, and familiar.  The writing style is certainly different, but comfortably weird.

     I particularly liked “Left Brain”, and his odd relationship with Zaphod.  The side trip to Valhalla was certainly entertaining, and almost links to Douglas’ other main character “Dirk Gently”.  One thing I have noticed, the “Heart of Gold” is no longer described as a sleek running shoe.  In fact, the shape of the vessel seems to never be specified at all.  I wonder if that is an effort not to distance this novel from the portrayal in the movie.  I also picked up on the absence of Marvin, the Paranoid Android.  Why was he left out?

    I will stop here, so as not to spoil it for you.  If you have enjoyed the other stories about the guide, then I think you will enjoy this one too.  I got mine through, and Simon Jones’ reading was excellent.  Good voicing of the characters, and conveys a sense of being there that reading from a page does not.  It helps that Simon Jones was the guy who played Arthur Dent in the radio broadcast back in the day.

   “And Another Thing” gives us a little more insight into the whole sort of general mish-mash.  Get it.  I plan to listen to it again soon.  I expect I didn't catch every weird reference the first time through, and I am looking forward to it.

I give it a solid 42 stars out of 10!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Blue Heron

A Blue Heron has taken up residence in the creek.  He can be seen on rainy days @ the low water crossing for Hatch Rd in Lorena.  This is the best shot so far…….   Have you ever seen a bird’s tongue?

Blue Heron-1

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bad Weather is Good for Photography!


Yesterday large thuderstorms passed just to the north and south of us here in Bruceville.  We got nearly no rain, but a truly excellent light show!  The storm to the north had most of its lightning inside the thunderhead, giving the clouds a cool backlit effect.   This went on for nearly an hour of constant lightning with little or no thunder reaching me.  (24mm  f/4  ISO 400  9 seconds)  Nikon D80 + Sigma 24-60mm EX.



The storm to the south was a bit farther away, and appeared hazy.  Like there was lots of dust or maybe thin clouds in the air between me and the storm.  The TV signal tower in the middle distance provides a nice setting for these pictures.

(24mm f/6  ISO 400 8.9 seconds)

Click on the pictures to see the full size version

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ron Schrader got a new HTPC - Its Cool!



A month or so ago, I was asked to build a new computer.  It’s specs were simple.  Good websurfing, DVD and BluRay Playback, and no visible wires.    Here are the results.                



            What we have here is an Athlon II 240 (2.8 ghz dual core), 2GB of ram, and a 320GB HDD.  Plus the all important Bluray drive.  The Video is the onboard Radeon HD4200, with a pci-Ex16 slot for a better video card later if wanted. Plus a wireless keyboard with trackball integrated.

All that stuff is cool, but the part that I liked the best was the case.  nMediaPC Black Aluminum 1000B HTPC Case.  About $80 on   Isn’t this case fantastic!   It looks like, and is the same size as my Kenwood home theater reciever.  The Bluray drive fit nicely behind the little flappy door, and all the components inside are standard mAtx parts.  And a standard size Antec power supply.


The Picture is Clear as a bell @ 1280x720.  And Bluray titles play with HDCP function.  (We tested with “The Last Starfighter”)P9130046


The TV is wall mounted (obviously), and the power and HDMI cables are run inside the wall.  Right next to the HTPC is a DVR (Time Warner), and both components have all their assorted cables completly hidden!  The PC runs on Wi-Fi (that little stubby antenna) and its antenna sits in between the PC and the DVR, out of sight.

     This may not be the fastest computer on the block, but the case and the setup in the room with the big screen and the wireless keyboard make this the classiest setup I have been part of.


And it is so clean and neat inside!P9120038




Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nick & Shannon Kaechler. Sept 19, 2009

  Yesterday, my cousin Nick got hitched.  It was a nice hitchin’  and the reception was @ this fantastic park kind of place near College Station.  I wasn’t the official photographer, but he was so busy setting up portraits that he couldn’t get the candid shots.  People as they really are is much more interesting than posed portraits anyway.

Here is a glimpse of people as they really were on 9-19-09


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The Guy with his back to us is the professional photographer.  He seemed to really know his stuff, and made the folks really comfortable with the process.  That is as important as the quality of the photos he produces.  The thin guy on the left is the Minister.

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On the left:  Mr&Ms Robert Reagan  In the middle: Nick & Shannon  On the right:  Robert & Nancy Kaechler

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This picture made the whole set!

Nicks Wedding!_091909_0212 Nicks Wedding!_091909_0213  Nicks Wedding!_091909_0237Nicks Wedding!_091909_0225Nicks Wedding!_091909_0226 


One wonders what the commentary from the groomsmen was………


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Great location.   Wish I had my tripod!

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Everybody set up for the big finish!!!