Oh right … That doesn

Jul 29

geniousOh Right.
Sometimes I think I should have become an inventor. That would have been something right up my alley. Sitting there with my think cap on, scribbling mathematical formulas on endless sheets of paper. Fretting around my Frankenstein-esque laboratory and suddenly screaming “ EUREKA “ whilst constructing some immensely complex machine.
The trouble is : I’m horrible at math, even worse at constructing anything with my hands and don’t have a think cap. But I do think outside the box a lot. From time to time I come up with a question of something I want done or something I need that requires fairly recent technology. Its not that I want a food replicator, a Hyperdrive or a Colonial starfighter for my collection. Sometimes I am fretting over an problem and conclude that the solution of the problem must lie in the combination of using technology X , software Y and method Z. When I can’t do it mysellf I step up to the guyz who know about X Y and Z and propose them my solution, naively assuming that they can give me the glue to stick X Y  and Z together.
And then I get this blank stare. Not this look that they want to put me into a looney bin, no this look like … “ Oh My God .. thats a brilliant Idea , better not let him know “.  Erm .. they mumbel , as I see the faint glow of an idea flaring up in the back of their heads .. “ That doesn’t exist yet “ they mumble. The undertone of their voice betraying that I have just made some kind of startling discovery. “ But thats not a bad idea”

Get is often.

And I get this often. Its not that i’m asking science fiction style solutions, but that in my mind I paste technologies, methods and a lot of “outside the box” thinking together to come up with the solution of a problem that I have. I don’t have the expertise of knowing HOW to glue it all together , but I just know it will work if I combine X Y and Z. So has a great inventor been lost ? I don’t think so. I’m sure that somewhere out there there are people who thought of what little old me has thought of . But the problem with the experts is : they know their field of work very deeply. I have a broader technological knowledge ( not as deep but a little wider) so I start to fish from a bigger , but more shallow pond. Thats how I come up with these crazy “all over the board” style solutions. And I don”t need a million for my bright idea, If i would get a penny for every raised eyebrow that I have conjured up on the face of the experts .. I would be rich already. So maybe i’m a genius, or maybe i’m insane. … I’m just hoping for a little bit of both.

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Skype videochat for mac. The future is here.

Jul 27

A long time in the making. 

Its been a long time coming , or has it been a long time overdue : Its finally here. The first cross platform VIOP & Videochat application to span the bridge between Mac and Windows users. The switchers holy grail so to speak. The missing link between the two communities.
For those of us who parted the land of the Windows users and boldly buy a Mac, ( either because we did not have the pubes to rebel and buy a harley , or just to score with the chicks) we fairly quickly felt ourselves in isolation of the instant messaging world. Sure , OSX comes with mighty fine chat-tools like for example Ichat .. So that mighty fine Isight web-cam on yours could do some good .. but .. there is no one ON i-chat now is there.

Meanwhile in the Windows world.

skypeMeanwhile in the Windows world people are chatting and nudging and webcamming (and sometimes even stripping) their happy days away with the one big happy family on MSN Messenger. Ok, I was happy to finally get rid of those bouncing smilies, pink backgrounds, screaming avatars and vibrating chat windows .. but this was lonely. Sure there are some good msn clones out there , but none of them support web-camming between YOU and the rest of the world. Sure , there is Mercury ( hellishly slow , weighs a ton, eats memory like Oprah and does not work if you are behind a router) . So there I was , Shiny Isight and no one to wave at. THank heavens to Skype for putting out the great app they make and for bringing us webcam support. I had played with it before : the PC to PC webcam session between two Skype users is faster then watching tv ! If I ever thought the MSN webcam protocol was the pinnacle of streaming video compression : Skype to Skype makes it look like a snail on ice. So as soon as the beta came out I just had to get my hands on it.

Download and install.
Downloaded and installed it on my Imac and rang up my friend Blue on his Windows PC (also with a built in webcam) And both audio and video worked fantastic. Ok the speed is not that good when it comes to video but the quality is awesome. Audio is crispy and when you hit the full screen button .. The future is here.
So with my Macbook on the table , isight tucked away in the lid… Talking full screen to my buddy at the other side of the globe (while doing the dishes) all I needed was a fish in a bowl, a model of the USS Stargazer and a Galaxy class starship beneath my feet.. “ Captain to engineering” .. i shout and tap the invisible communicator on my chest .. No response .. no starship .. As I look at my Skype screen and wave to my distant friend who is tapping finger to his forehead …  At least I can say THIS part of the future .. is here.  Find your Skype for mac HERE

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Feeling HOT HOT HOT !

Jul 27
willyIts too damn hot.
For about the 20th day in a row, maximum temperatures here in never-ever-sunny Belgium have once again risen above 33 degrees centigrade. We are having a full blown Sahara style heat-wave. Just great ! For those of you who know me : I do not like the cold. I have complained in length to the celestial thermostat to crank up the juice this winter.Yet somehow I fear that the big weatherman in the sky has yanked up the heat and broke of the knob.
And heat is a funny thing , its makes people and machines go totally insane. I’ll give you a short list of how its impacting my life these days.
1- No extensive outdoor activities. : Well : its warm outside, so an ideal time to do stuff around the house, paint a wall here and there , fix some stuff up etc. You’ll be successful at that, right up the the first hour in your endeavor. Afterwards you will probably awake in some nearby hospital suffering from the result of a sunstroke that has rendered you completely inoperable. Like some overheating AMD Duron from 2001 with a pathetically cheap fan you can actually feel your body start to get steamed up without the ability to cool off. And we all know what happens to hot cpu’s. They crash .. then they burn.

2- Speaking of CPU’s
: One of the major things that are suffering these days is technology. With hard disk spinning ever faster, Power supply’s spewing out more heat, more clock cycles and all that , your computer can really become a small source of warmth. Seriously : When I pump up my 3.2 gig machine in my small office (not the big one) it will be able to warm up this large amount of air quite significantly. Not enough to heat it , but enough to be felt. So imagines computers, servers, switches and routers MOANING under the heat these days. My Mac Mini (acting as a server) is too kind in constantly blowing its fan these days and even my macbook starts to “MOO” its cooling apparatus at points where it never used to do it. In overall : the raise of the ambient temperature by a few degrees is hell for machines.
3 – Sleep deprivation ad loss of concentration. If its too hot during the day : BAD.. If it does not cool down during the night : WORSE. I sleep extremely bad these days cause of the heat. Leaving the windows open even makes it worse, OK , you cool down the room enough so sleep BUT the outside noise of a busy city (or my Italian neighbors who  insists on yelling their goodbyes to each-other from opposite sides of the street at 3AM) do knock you out of the light sleep you have. : Result : I look hung over in the morning and feel like i’m ready for a pension plan. I can’t even remember what I was going to write about concentration.
And Finally : The Brain-fry ! Above some certain temperature the mind starts to bubble. I’ve double checked this with fellow cyber-citizens and it does appear to be a common phenomenon. At some point resolving complex processes , or troubleshooting easy problems becomes nearly impossible. As the mind swims in its on sweat , one cannot make heads or tails of the task ahead. So among IT people this results in loss of concentration ,trouble shooting skills and chasing the cute girls around the office in an effective way. I don’t even like coffee when its THIS hot ! An article I read even states that driving in a warm car has the same results as driving under influence of alcohol (loss of concentration , being more easily irritated and so on) quite amazing isn’t it !

But for some it is even worse
. Prompted by exotic temperatures they venture into worlds unknown and actually start doing tasks they have never ever preformed before in their life. As did my father in law who suddenly started OPERATING the barbecue last saturday (where as he former and foremost roll had been to complain about and afterwards consume the food) I knew when dear old willy started flipping sausages .. The heat had gotten to all of us !

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If you want my advice … why don't you take it ?

Jul 26

Helpdesk Saturday. Being in the IT field I get a lot of phone-calls. I must say, if I don’t “accidently” leave my cell phone at home from time to time .. Saturday afternoons, rainy days, and holidays would turn into some kind of private on line help-desk sessions. It used to be even worse, being awoken on a saturday morning with by a random native of my town who was standing outside my door , computer case in his arms, demanding I fix his computer by the end of the day, and stuff like that. But as I said … its not THAT bad anymore. Some of the people I know have actually evolved from : “Calling Knightwise whenever I fracked something up” to .. “ Calling Knightwise BEFORE I frack something up.” This results in the fact that I get some phone-calls and questions on “advice” rather then “ support “I don’t mind advice calls, sometimes even think they are rather charming. People standing in an IT store, disregarding EVERYTHING the sales person has just tried to sell them, picking up the cellphone and calling ME for objective and trusted advice.


What to buy. Same thing happened last saturday : A phone-call from a niece of mine, on the one big question : What MP3 player should I buy : A creative or an Ipod. Ah … She had come to the right place of course. My house is the virtual Dagobah of portable media device advice and “ The master am I in advice about what to buy ! ” ( or some Yoda-esque quote like that) So after explaining for 20 minutes straight that the Ipod is most surely the better buy.  ( I’m not pimping Apple here , I have just been so frustrated with Creative MP3 players that the last time I threw one away I surely must have launched it into orbit) My niece who is a very bright and chipper girl gave me some excellent questions and was well informed about the matter : What’s the best buy in storage-space for your money , What device has the best software, What device has the best hardware quality etc. Gingerly I answered all her questions and pointed out that the Ipod is the best buy. Creative has been struggling to make “ipod killer” after “ipod killer” but they just can”t do it. With software that is more instable then the Tjernobyl nuclear reactor, Devices that look like some five year old just had a run in with a blob of play doh and battery life that mounts up to the attention span of a ADD patient on red bull … its not something you want to by. So I say , scream, argue and imprint the line : Don’t buy a Creative : Buy an Ipod onto her synapses. Short from writing the message on the face of the moon .. I have used up all my recourses in trying to convince her. Satisfied with a job well done .. I hang up .. Flattered by the fact that people trust my advice and follow my directions before they plunge themselves into technological mayhem.

Erm .. I made a booboo. Or so I thought : Because yesterday evening .. I got a call .. From my niece. Prepping up to give her some Ipod pointers, software, websites and advice .. I was a little dumbstruck by her first line ..” Well erm .. I went out to buy an mp3 player .. And I bought a Creative”. My heart skipped a beat and for a little moment in linear time I thought that insanity must have claimed me. I seriously started doubting my communicational skills or the fact I have somehow contracted an alternate personality that had advised the purchase of such a devilish device. As she went on she explained (frustrated) that the Creative just didn”t work right. Importing movies onto it did not function properly and the software that came with it decided it would cease functioning after the first use : Result : The creative does not work. The words “ I TOLD YOU SO “ formed like a big sign in the back of my head. What part of the message : DO NOT BUY A CREATIVE had not been very clear. Did I have to implore reverse psychology ? Did I by some strange interstellar phenomenon appear to be an unreliable source of advice ? I do not know honestly. But I’m a nice guy , did NOT say I told you so , but was unable to offer  any advice accept for the fact ‘ Because its CRAP” as  to why the Creative MP3 player did not work. Sadly for my niece she has to dive into the manuals of the device and hope and pray it will preform correctly. Oh well.. at least i’m not like NICK BURNS !

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The pro

Jul 25

handcuffsThe word alone sounds repulsing to me.

Proprietary : The word alone sounds repulsing to me. Being an open source – cross platform fetishist, anything that is locked into the boundaries of a certain manufacturer is probably comparable to the used toilet paper of satan himself. Anything that veers away from open standards and locks users into the steel confinements of a certain brand or manufacturer is no worse then the sing sing prison. Just think about it. Special document formats that implore you , no , FORCE you to buy a certain peace of software in order to open them. A peace of hardware that only has drivers for a certain operating system. Or an on line music store that will only allow its content to be played on one brand of players. Anything that promises advanced functionality at the cost of the consumers liberty to buy what he wants is something Cruellla Devill would probably love. I hate proprietary stuff. Whether its office document formats, Itunes-music-store restricted music, or even some fancy sort of USB connector variation that will only fit on that one stupid dell machine. If it ain’t open , I don’t want it ! I scream in defiance. What good is a fantastic slideshow made in powerpoint if I can’t open it on my mac, Why the frack would I buy a song on Itunes if i can’t play it on my cheap ass mp3 player, Why in hells bells would  I encode my music in WMA format if my linux machine won’t be able to read it.

Oh ow , caught in the net.

But , willing or unwilling, i have slipped into the net of these close quarters and have witnessed the power of this fully operational battlesta.. erm .. proprietary software. This week I installed my old Mac Mini as a server at home. Giving it some extra firewire storage-space I bestowed upon it the tasks to store all my pictures and music , and do some video capturing on the side. Your basic run of the mill media server. Using a great program called SHAREPOINT i was able to share any folder I liked using the universal SAMBA protocol. For reasons beyond my comprehension mac does not allow sharing just any folder, just the home folder. Probably to prevent you from turning your mac into a file-server , but hey , come on .. its MY MAC remember ?  Nevertheless I got it working nice and dandy. Writing a little logon script with automator gave my other macs access to the shares and that was that. Then I stared using Iphoto and Itunes on the mac server to manage the pictures. That way a boring server was also good for some music playing and photo slide-showing. Think of my mac mini as a power-station (not quite a server , but not quite a workstation). When I got downstairs on my macbook (after connecting to the shared folders using my Ubuntu workstation) i booted up my Itunes and saw…. The mac mini’s music directory.. magically shared through the wonders of AFS (apple file-sharing system). And behold : The Iphoto library on the server was available as well ! And it was surprisingly fast. Sharing files (streaming video) between macs using AFS was faster then doing the same thing with my linux machine over the open source standard of SAMBA.

Its magic .. damn you ! 

So there you have it . By some technology indistinguishable from magic my macs had talked to each-other and decided on a little functionality to brighten up my day: Share pictures and music just like that. Wether the other kids in the room ( my Ubuntu station and Windows machine) could join or not (they couldn’t) was none of their concern. Too bad really. I mean , I feel good about the fact i can share pictures and music from a centralized place .. but am appalled at the fact that somewhere somehow I have fallen for the proprietary marketing trick. It comes with its advantages of course. But the next time I sit behind my Ubuntu workstation … and curse for not being able to access my Itunes .. I know i’ll curse : Damn you proprietary devil !

 To top it of ? A video for you guyz 🙂


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