Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Home Theater Project Inches Forward…..


Took a few days off work here recently, and set a couple of them aside for home improvement days.  The project at hand was to remove the old pull down screen I have had in place for the last 7 years, and replace it with a larger screen, and make it a grey screen too.

    The chosen color for the room is “Wild Plum”  (Manami picked it)
I was a little skeptical of making the room all fruity, but once I got started on it, I found that the plum really does look good.
Here is a “before” shot, with just the test patch of plum showing to the right.

After all the dismantling and prep work, here is the wall with the first coat of paint applied.

Note the thick bundle of cables hanging from the ceiling.  that is HDMI, Composite, S-Video, and Power running up to the projector.   During this stage of the project, I left the projector hooked to the cable box so that I could watch whatever was on while I worked.  The change in the color of the image from reflecting off a white wall to reflecting off a plum wall is amazing!  The plum paint destroyed any contrast or accurate color that may have been on at the time……..
Next step: room reassembled, basic part of the screen is built.   Time for a test-fit.

Here is a piece of 1/2 inch sanded plywood, hanging from a framework of 2x4’s.  The black panels to the sides are for mounting the front speakers. There are no studs in the wall to hang those speakers from, so the plywood panels span the gap and provide a secure hardpoint.


Here is the finished product!  At least for this stage.  I still have to build a new set of shelves onto the wall in that corner for all the DVD’s and hopefully soon for some Bluray discs.  I also am in the progress of building a new HTPC that will replace my DVD player for good. 
The screen measures (on the viewable area)  48 Inches tall x 77 Inches wide.  the paint is an N8 neutral gray, I had it mixed at Lowes from the Olympic Ultra Pure White Base.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More Apple Bashing!! YAY!

Click on this image to see the full version. (if it appears small in your window, click it again and it will expand).   If it is too big for your screen, clicking on it will allow your browser to resize it.

I couldn’t find a name on this to give credit where credit is due, so to whoever compiled this:  I salute you sir!





Friends don’t let friends buy Apple……….

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Microsoft hits the target (finally)

    As of sometime yesterday afternoon, Microsoft has finally gotten my email and calendar to work together properly.  For the last few years I have been trying to get my windows mobile phone to sync not just my email and contacts, but my calendar too.  That it took them until Aug 30 2010 to finally make this work is simply inexcusable!  The solution was so simple:   implement exchange/activesync for the hotmail + live services.

    Now I or anyone on any modern phone can simply type in a few things and get a similar level of functionality that used to be the domain of corporate types only.    There are still one or two things missing though.  One is the fairly meaningless bit where gmail (using activesync) will take the pictures you have assigned to your contacts and store them up in the cloud with the rest of your data.  This is not such a big deal, but it would be nice.

     All things considered, I am still satisfied with using Windows Live for email.  They provide the best desktop client without a doubt.  That is what has kept me from going over to gmail for all this time.  Outlook is too slow, and there arent any other clients that properly support gmail. 

<end of rant>


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lisa & Corbin Smith – June 13 2010


Manami and I recently had the privilege of handling the video and music for a wedding.  While we were there, we took the opportunity to get some nice pictures of the couple and thelisacorbinsmith55 goings on.

The wedding was held at Clifton House, on Austin Ave.  It’s a nice place, but it was HOT!  Fortunately, the ceremony was kept mercifully short and we moved indoors for a small reception.





Here they are coming back into the house right after the “I do’s”.  Note the huge grin on his

face.  =)

Here are a few random shots we grabbed while taking turns with the video camera and the sound system. (all but two of these were actually taken by Manami, I spent most of the time trying to do decent video)

lisacorbinsmith47    lisacorbinsmith59lisacorbinsmith15lisacorbinsmith4lisacorbinsmith60

It was a nice wedding, and our best wishes go out to the young couple.

Photos posted here by permission of the bride’s mom.  Please don’t copy or reuse them without their permission.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Persian Cuisine and Flowers

Thursday, May 27th 2010

      Alborz Persian Buffet

      The food was excellent!  The service was prompt. and the ambience was nice and calm.  If Manami and I    happen to be in the area again we would not hesitate to stop in for lunch.  The price was reasonable, around $10 each for the buffet.  There was lamb stew, rice with lentils, albalu polow, Tzatziki, hummus, and lightly crisp flat bread, and more.  One thing we noticed, there was no “american food” on the table.  I  wish this happened at more ethnic restuarants, instead of sticking a cheese pizza beside the gyros or the chow mein.austin2010anniversary17   austin2010anniversary14austin2010anniversary15   austin2010anniversary16



        After that excellent lunch we made our way over to the Zilker Botanical Garden.  This place is nothing new, but it is our retreat of choice when we want to escape for a couple hours.  Even in 100 degree weather, most parts of this little park are still pleasant.  The air has that oxygen rich smell that humans call “invigorating”.  Manami and I agreed yesterday that the air smelled “green”.   The only thing that could make this park better would be if it were closer to home. 




DIY Tile Shower

I haven’t been doing much photography lately, because most of my free time has been spent attempting to build a shower in the place where i took out the busted, junky old bathtub.  What has emerged from the cocoon of dust and trash is suprisingly nice, though certainly not perfect.  I have learned some valuable lessons, thats for sure.  First:  DO NOT hook up the p-trap under the shower floor till everything else is finished.  Otherwise you will be making a run to the local ace hardware to get a new one when you discover that the old one has filled up with concrete and grout.  Second:  Tile is messy!  Plan to get hollered at by your wife about all the dust and grout that you tracked onto her carpet.  =(

     I didnt think to get a picture of the tub that went away, or of the sub-floor and curb structure.  But here are the pics of the process.    Hooray for the finished project!  Now on to the next………


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Denton Assembly Hall

Panoramic view of the interior of the Denton, Tx assembly hall.  Stiched from 7 12mp images using Microsoft Image Compositing Editor.

denton panorama-1

click the image to get the original, gigantic file.  there is quite a bit of detail in there.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I Hate Apple Computers Inc.

I was listening to some of my cow-workers bleating on and on about his apple iPad today, and wishing he would just shut up.   But he got me to thinking, I had read an article somewhere that truly expressed the nature of Mac people.  I went looking for it, and I found it!    Consider that the following article was written in 2007, by a british guy.  That was pre-iPhone, and yet the general attitude has not changed.  Neither has Apple’s insistence on control and restriction.  So, after reading this bit, try your best not to stare at the slavering hordes of brainwashed, non-sentient, Steve Jobs worshippers that you might trip over.  They will resume functioning once they have gotten over the launch of yet another high priced, glamourous, and ultimately useless device.  Enjoy…….

-------------------------- begin quote ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I hate Macs

Charlie Brooker
Monday February 5, 2007
The Guardian 
    Unless you have been walking around with your eyes closed, and your head encased in a block of concrete, with a blindfold tied round it, in the dark - unless you have been doing that, you surely can't have failed to notice the current Apple Macintosh campaign starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb, which has taken over magazines, newspapers and the internet in a series of brutal coordinated attacks aimed at causing massive loss of resistance. While I don't have anything against shameless promotion per se (after all, within these very brackets I'm promoting my own BBC4 show, which starts tonight at 10pm), there is something infuriating about this particular blitz. In the ads, Webb plays a Mac while Mitchell adopts the mantle of a PC. We know this because they say so right at the start of the ad.
"Hello, I'm a Mac," says Webb.
"And I'm a PC," adds Mitchell.
    They then perform a small comic vignette aimed at highlighting the differences between the two computers. So in one, the PC has a "nasty virus" that makes him sneeze like a plague victim; in another, he keeps freezing up and having to reboot. This is a subtle way of saying PCs are unreliable. Mitchell, incidentally, is wearing a nerdy, conservative suit throughout, while Webb is dressed in laid-back contemporary casual wear. This is a subtle way of saying Macs are cool.
    The ads are adapted from a near-identical American campaign - the only difference is the use of Mitchell and Webb. They are a logical choice in one sense (everyone likes them), but a curious choice in another, since they are best known for the television series Peep Show - probably the best sitcom of the past five years - in which Mitchell plays a repressed, neurotic underdog, and Webb plays a selfish, self-regarding poseur. So when you see the ads, you think, "PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately lovable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers." In other words, it is a devastatingly accurate campaign.
    I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don't use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.
    PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC). PCs have charm; Macs ooze pretension. When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, "I hate Macs", and then I think, "Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?" Losing that second mouse button feels like losing a limb. If the ads were really honest, Webb would be standing there with one arm, struggling to open a packet of peanuts while Mitchell effortlessly tore his apart with both hands. But then, if the ads were really honest, Webb would be dressed in unbelievably po-faced avant-garde clothing with a gigantic glowing apple on his back. And instead of conducting a proper conversation, he would be repeatedly congratulating himself for looking so cool, and banging on about how he was going to use his new laptop to write a novel, without ever getting round to doing it, like a mediocre idiot.
    Cue 10 years of nasal bleating from Mac-likers who profess to like Macs not because they are fashionable, but because "they are just better". Mac owners often sneer that kind of defence back at you when you mock their silly, posturing contraptions, because in doing so, you have inadvertently put your finger on the dark fear haunting their feeble, quivering soul - that in some sense, they are a superficial semi-person assembled from packaging; an infinitely sad, second-rate replicant who doesn't really know what they are doing here, but feels vaguely significant and creative each time they gaze at their sleek designer machine. And the more deftly constructed and wittily argued their defence, the more terrified and wounded they secretly are.
    Aside from crowing about sartorial differences, the adverts also make a big deal about PCs being associated with "work stuff" (Boo! Offices! Boo!), as opposed to Macs, which are apparently better at "fun stuff". How insecure is that? And how inaccurate? Better at "fun stuff", my arse. The only way to have fun with a Mac is to poke its insufferable owner in the eye. For proof, stroll into any decent games shop and cast your eye over the exhaustive range of cutting-edge computer games available exclusively for the PC, then compare that with the sort of rubbish you get on the Mac. Myst, the most pompous and boring videogame of all time, a plodding, dismal "adventure" in which you wandered around solving tedious puzzles in a rubbish magic kingdom apparently modelled on pretentious album covers, originated on the Mac in 1993. That same year, the first shoot-'em-up game, Doom, was released on the PC. This tells you all you will ever need to know about the Mac's relationship with "fun".
    Ultimately the campaign's biggest flaw is that it perpetuates the notion that consumers somehow "define themselves" with the technology they choose. If you truly believe you need to pick a mobile phone that "says something" about your personality, don't bother. You don't have a personality. A mental illness, maybe - but not a personality. Of course, that hasn't stopped me slagging off Mac owners, with a series of sweeping generalisations, for the past 900 words, but that is what the ads do to PCs. Besides, that's what we PC owners are like - unreliable, idiosyncratic and gleefully unfair. And if you'll excuse me now, I feel an unexpected crash coming.

-----------------------  end quote --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thank you Mr. Brooker!  Your eloquence astounds me.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Seriously Geeky Post:

This year will bring us an extremely significant date.  October 10th, 2010.   In binary, 101010=42!  In case you don't know, 42 is the ultimate answer.  Or, if you prefer, 42 in science terms.  My references include a site that has been up for almost a year now, is a functional repository of scientific knowledge.  Anything that you can enter into that site in scientific terms you will get some interesting results.

Next highly odd item:

a Venn diagram………


This finally provides an explanation for the terminology that we all use.  Most people use the terms “geek”, “nerd”, and “dork”, interchangeably.  I have always felt that was inaccurate. Here finally, is a proper way to show someone how to define it.

According to this chart, I am either  a geek or a nerd.  I lean more to the geek side, since I do have a few social skills (at least, more than some of the other nerds/dorks that I have met).


And, check this out!   If this is half as awesome as the original movie it will blow all of our minds!

Tron Legacy Trailer












Finally, huge props go out to the

“Current Geek” podcast!  These guys dig up the best topics, and cover them from the perspective of sci-fi fans, and science enthusiasts!  I highly recommend this to all the geeks out there. (refer to the diagram to see if you qualify)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

a work in progress

hello vistors,

i am in the midst of migrating over to wordpress.   please excuse the mess for a bit.......

Monday, March 22, 2010

Toshiba Satellite t135d-s1328rd: First Impressions


Toshiba Review-1010211



Today I got a new laptop.  Ultra-portable Toshiba Satellite t135d-s1328rd.  It was not too expensive, and it already has proven to be a far better machine than the netbook it is replacing.  Its predecessor was an Asus 1000HE, with the customary Atom processor and 2GB of ram.  That machine was useable, but just barely.  And working with photos on it was just out of the question.  My primary camera is a 10 megapixel Nikon D80, and I shoot RAW images with it.  Those files are quite large, and just 1 of them would bog the netbook down.  Plus, I use Adobe Lightroom to process those images, and it wouldn't even install on the netbook due to the limited screen resolution.  This Toshiba covers both of those bases.  Note: the pictures in this review were taken with our second camera, Manami’s 12 megapixel Panasonic DMC-TS1. 

Toshiba Review-1010212


      This thing is really thin!  Opened up, the front edge is 10mm high.  Note the comparison to a USB plug.  Note also the position of the only USB port on the left side.  Just behind that is the HDMI port, and the vent for the heatsink.

Toshiba Review-1010214


When closed, the front edge is roughly 20mm high.  Again, I am really impressed by how small this feels.  Realistically it is not any thinner than the netbook, but it feels thinner due to the much wider form factor.  The screen is a 13.3” widescreen @ 1366x768, as opposed to the netbook’s 10” widescreen @ 1024x600.

Toshiba Review-1010215


The finish is called “Nova Red” on Toshiba’s website.  While it isn’t carbon fiber, it gives that impression.  And I feel that a glossy red finish really does make it go faster!

Toshiba Review-1010216

   One minor problem with the shiny red “go-fast” finish is that its a bit of a fingerprint magnet.  I have had it for only a day and I see smudges on the finish.  Probably I will get used to it, and clean it off every week or so like I did with my previous laptops.

Toshiba Review-1010217


 Back to the thinness of it…..


Toshiba Review-1010219

 As you can see, the battery is the thickest part of the design.  It makes the rear end stand up off the table a bit, and gives you something to grip when you pick it up.  That battery is easily removed / replaced.  I haven’t seen one for sale yet, but I would like to be able to get a larger, higher capacity battery that sticks out the back a bit.  That would be good for use while traveling. 


Toshiba Review-1010222

 I am not too comfortable with carrying this thing around.   I feel like I’m going to drop it at any minute, its that tiny.  So I recommend that you look into getting some kind of bag to fit it.  I am still hunting for one that suits

Toshiba Review-1010221

   Next up, the mouse!  The Microsoft Arc mouse.  This is a pretty good travel mouse, although I wouldn’t use it for everyday computing.  It runs on 2 AAA batteries, and folds down to 1/2 its size.  Opened up, its close to the size of a standard desktop mouse, but its much much lighter, and does not track as accurately.  Battery life seems pretty good, I have only changed them out once (I put in Energizer Lithium Cells) and they are still going strong 1 year later.  Notice the little bag that came with the mouse.  That’s a nice touch, since this little guy isToshiba Review-1010224 destined to float around in Toshiba Review-1010223the bottom of the bag and get banged up.  This mouse has stayed with me through 3 laptops now, and while I find that Manami’s Logitech VX nano mouse has smoother operation, it is way too tiny for my big meathook hands.  So high marks for the Microsoft Arc mouse.          Get One!





Back to the laptop at hand:Toshiba Reviewb-1010225

       As far as performance goes, it blows the netbook away.  This is an AMD Turion Neo X2 processor (l625), with 4GB of ram, and an ATI HD3200 Video card. Windows 7 x64 is installed out of the box.  Simply being a dual-core processor makes a lot of difference, but having a proper graphics card seals the deal.  I have read of a few people actually doing some light gaming on similarly equipped laptops.  I probably won’t load anything more intense than “Portal”on this one.  However, I can vouch that Adobe Lightroom works well on this hardware.  P1010230While not nearly as responsive as my desktop machine, it is very useable and I see no reason why I couldn’t process photos and blog from here while on vacation.  In fact, I am posting this from said Toshiba laptop right now.         

    One major downside that i found after the first startup.  This machine, like mostP1010229 others, comes with so much junk software.  I spent the first two hours uninstalling all the bologna that Toshiba crams into it.  Norton Internet Bloatware (Security), MS Office trick version (trial version), and the lovely Toshiba take-over-your-network-and-ruin-it (config free) program.    :end of whining…..  (camera shots were easier than screenshots)

     After putting in the necessary time to clean up, I have a fast, responsive machine that weighs nothing, and might even fit into a manila envelope.  All for less than 600$  Take that Macbook Air!

    After 1 day of use, I have only good to say about this Toshiba 135D Ultra-Portable.   It blows away the netbook while being only slightly larger, and while it does cost more, it seems to be totally worth it!  

I give it 42 stars out of 10!  

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Today’s Pictures



Lets start with interesting off – camera flash effects.  This bottle of Midori is mostly full, you can see the level of liquid just below the label.  The SB-600 was positioned just below it, and set to wireless TTL.  The camera had my 50mm F/1.8 prime lens on, set at F/1.8 and aperture priority mode.  1/60sec  ISO100   This is a cool shot!

     Also, I learned a new way to mix Midori.  In an 8oz tumbler, put 1 or 2 fingers of Midori, a few ice cubes, and fill the rest up with milk.  It tasted just like the melon float I had in Tokyo a couple years ago!  Delicious!!

     Interestingly, Suntory is a Japanese company, and this melon flavor seems to be only available from Japan.  After my reaction to the melon float, Manami and I had been looking for the melon flavored soda that was used to make it.  It simply isn't available outside Japan, certainly not in Texas.  This Midori Liqueur is the exact same flavor, with a slight kick.

Midori means “green” in Japanese

mocha playing

     Here is Mocha playing with a beat up old kitty toy.  The thing has been lost under the dresser for months, and chewed so much it looks like a dried up body of a real mouse.  After recovering this from under the dresser, we threw it into the toybox and it was immediately taken out and I think it may already have been lost again.  Aren't cats great?!?!?!

     24-60mm F/2.8 Lens @60mm      D80 on Aperture priority F/2.8  SB-600 on the shoe, with a white Omni-Bounce.  1/60sec  ISO100

     Finally, I was over at the Bueckers house with Rusty playing around with my camera and got this shot.  D80, 50mm F/1.8  1/4000sec  ISO100  Aperture priority  no flash.  I simply held the camera under the chandelier, half-pressed the shutter and shot when I heard the focus beep.  I love the shallow depth of field that prime lenses can give!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Snow Snail???

2010-02-23 16.54.24

My friend Matt apparently feels that a snowman is way too mainstream.    This is the result…….. 

It’s Gary from Spongebob!!!! 

Its Awesome!