Sunday, 15 August 2004

I realized I've posted almost all tech stuff recently, so I figured its about time to write about something a little less technical: My garden.

With three and a half acres, I figured I should do something. Besides, with my job being what it is, getting unplugged (at least mentally if not literally) on a regular basis is a good thing. So I started a small garden this year, mostly above-ground beds in the back yard, and it's working out pretty well.

  • I have sunflowers that are 15 feet tall (not an exaggeration) and still growing
  • I have three tomato plants that have a combined total of well over a hundred green tomatoes growing on them right now.
  • I have more beets and radishes than I know what to do with
  • I had something like half a ton (well it seemed like it) of broccoli and cauliflower
  • The corn is growing pretty well (I think I have them too close together though)
  • Gonna be some huge freaking pumpkins pretty soon
  • Even the watermelons look like they're going to work out
  • Peas and carrots abound

And it wasn't really all that much work, once the beds were put together and ready (thanks in large part to help from my great neighbors). I just seeded, watered and kept on watering. I pulled a few weeds here and there, but surprisingly few. It's been pretty fun. I like being able to walk into the garden when I am a little hungry and eat right off the plant. I'm not an organic farmer or anything, but I have not needed to use pesticides or anything. I used Miracle Grow on the hose just once, right off the bat, and the rest was just plain water and a little composty stuff, but I think mostly it's the good soil and regular watering.

I grew up in the desert - making things grow there was a true art form. My dad was the artist - I can remember that garden in the back yard when I was a kid. He even got peaches to grow there. Here in Oregon you have to try to kill plants if you don't want them, and even that can be a chore. So I've got it easy.

What I am doing now is letting some of the early-season plants (like radishes and broccoli) go to seed, so I can see if maybe they'll work again from the seeds they produce. I know that some plants will and others won't, and that is I wanted to I could probably look them up, but I just want to see what happens - it will be an interesting test.

If only the grass was as easy to keep green as the garden is to grow. Although the other night the lawn, whether or not it's as green as I like, made a decent carpet to lie on while watching the meteor shower (which was amazing).

Oh, and if anyone needs any tomatoes in a few weeks, I think I'm going to a be a little overloaded. Just let me know. Oh, and if you happen to be in New Mexico and want to trade some frozen roasted chilis from there for some home grown tomatoes, just say the word. I'm told by friends that the best chilis in the world can be had over the phone, though, and I am going to call them soon:

Perea Farms (in New Mexico)
505-565-1897 - at the chili stand
505-261-5887 - their cell
505-450-2535 - the chili farm itself

They'll roast, peel, pack and ship them to you. If you're a green chili fan and you actually believe the stuff you buy in the stores here in the northwest is worth a damn, you're wrong. Give it up and call one of those numbers. You'll be glad you did.



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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Sunday, 15 August 2004 12:44:50 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 14 August 2004

Do you use TiVo? Or own a Windows XP Media Center Edition PC (and if so do you use the MCE features at all)? What about PC-based software that does TiVo/MCE-like functionality, such as SnapStream?

I'm a TiVo guy - I have one of the original 20GB TiVos that I "hacked" and now it has 240GB of storage in it, and I can't imagine ever running out of space. I've recorded (literally) every episode of the West Wing, and each and every day I record the Daily Show and Dennis Miller. I love Season Passes, and I still have tons of space left.

But there are certain things I wish it was better at.

I have been considering, for some time, going the route of a Media Center PC. I want and need a new PC anyhow (mine's dead in the water under the desk and I have been lap-topping it the past few months). Two things have stopped me, though. The main problem is the fact that I can't build my own - I have to buy a pre-built machine and none of them really meet my (very specific and picky) needs. The second is cost - I'm not interested in shelling out the premium that the system builders charge, when you consider what you'll end up with. Yeah, I know I could use the MSDN subscription to download it and build a "test" machine, but that's not really kosher. Point is, it's the restrictive nature of the operating system and how it's licensed that's stopped me. Other than that, I'm all game.

There are other options I may just look at. For example, I've played with SnapStream's software in the past. These days they are selling a product called Beyond TV, and they will soon be coming out with Beyond Media, which will will have some nifty features and will work nicely with Beyond TV, they say. It looks very promising, and it's affordable. Hopefully there will be a version of Beyond TV to test soon - I'll be interested to see what it looks like and how it works. If I can arrange an early test copy, I'll even review it here, maybe do a side-by side thing. We'll see.

But for now, I've got the TiVo. I just wish it did more. Yes, I have seen the Series-2 TiVo product with the Home Media option, and the ones that are built into a DirecTV receiver, and the ones that have the DVD recorder in them (yada yada), but it's just not all there for me. I want to detach from the central device and use media anywhere I like. Give me HDTV capability and network sharing and sync capabilities. What is I want to want to view a show or something on my PC? Quit dumbing down the hardware that's already in the box. Let me export my digital media files to whatever I want, and make it easy for gosh sakes.

In the "make-them-better" department, Thomas Hawk recently wrote "Ten things that Microsoft and TiVo must each do to win the living room," which anyone who is tracking the future of digital media for the home will be interested in reading. I think he's pretty spot-on.

What do other people use? Right now I am tied to a Dish Network receiver (but definitely not married to it and I'll change for the right feature set - I just have not seen anything else compelling enough yet). I can't get cable and have not even tried to receive broadcast HDTV yet out where I live (which is very rural, by the way - my broadband is over a wireless connection to a tower on a mountain I can see from here). MY home theater consists of a big cave of a room with a projector (resulting in a 110-inch projected television image in HD), pretty darn good audio and a DVD changer. It rocks, but there's no computers involved.

Hmmmm... Ideas?

(inspired by various content found via Scoble's experimental aggregator blog)



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Tech
Saturday, 14 August 2004 15:30:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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A few months ago I got excited about the forthcoming Motorola MPx phone - a PDA/mobile-phone unit running the Windows Mobile OS and sporting a true HTML browser, WiFi, etc. Well the story is even better now, by a long shot:

Research in Motion announced a couple of weeks ago (now how did I miss that?) that the MPx and MPx220 will include BlackBerry Connect capability, meaning the MPx will be a full-blown Pocket PC PDA (Windows Mobile OS), a telephone, and a Blackberry device. The MPx220 (the smaller SmartPhone that will get the software) is a quad-band device - I am going to have to assume for now that the MPx is what their spec sheet (PDF) shows: GSM 900/1800/1900 and GPRS.

I bet it costs a fortune, but I'll keep my fingers crossed. This is exactly the type of device needed for companies that have people who travel a lot, have to be constantly in touch, need the immediacy of Blackberry email but want to be able to kick a PowerPoint presentation onto the screen and have it really work, or view and make some simple edits to a spreadsheet, or browse the intranet or Internet. Who needs a laptop? The QWERTY keyboard is just right. I like the rumor of a dual-hinge capability - supposedly it can open hinging on either the long side or the short side, depending on what you want to do with it. The image look like that's true too, although they all seem to show it its long-side pose.

What the MPx will have:

  • GSM 900/1800/1900; GPRS
  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.9 inches; 99.7 X 61.2 X 24 mm
  • Weight: 6.1 oz; 174 g
  • Up to 180 minutes talk time
  • Up to 140 hours standby time
  • Integrated 1.2 megapixel camera with flash
  • 2.8” 240 x 320 color touch TFT screen for easy data input that also works with a stylus
  • Multi-function QWERTY keyboard with touch screen that also works with stylus
  • Opens in portrait view for phone use, PDA applications and games
  • Built-in Wi-Fi: embedded 802.11b wireless networking
  • Microsoft Outlook on the PocketPC
  • Integrated Bluetooth Wireless Technology
  • SD/MMC slot up to 1 GB
  • Compatible with all Microsoft Pocket PC applications
  • WAP and HTML browsing, streaming video and audio
  • Multi-Media Messaging Service (MMS)
  • IrDA (Infra red) and Built-in "ActiveSync" protocol
  • Connectivity via IrDA, USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

If anyone happens to read this who know when and where it will be available (aside from “second-half of '04” that is), comment or email me.

What do you think? What would make the perfect device that could replace a laptop, phone and PDA? Comment your thoughts below.

(...by the way, companies that put search functions on their web sites should only do it if it works worth a darn. Compare this search with the same one in Google... Argh!)



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Mobile | Tech
Saturday, 14 August 2004 10:04:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 12 August 2004

Seemingly random post, I know, but Citizen Dmitri's web log site is great looking and has some very cool functionality. I've spent considerable time just refreshing and browsing to look at the pictures that make up the site and its entries. If you're a visual person, check it out.

A little while back I started doing a custom layout for my site, but ran out of time pretty quickly. This one puts the spark back in me to think about that again.



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Blogging | Random Stuff
Thursday, 12 August 2004 19:34:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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My friend and coworker Scott pointed me to an article by Robert Hensing on his new security incident-response weblog that does a great job of explaining “Why you shouldn't be using passwords of any kind on your Windows networks.”

The fact that Microsoft's security people are now starting to blog about their areas of expertise is awesome - and I realize it's not an easy thing for security management to buy into for a number of justifiable reasons. What Robert suggests in this article is right on the money, and is where many companies are already heading (and where the rest should be heading).

Subscribed:



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IT Security | Tech
Thursday, 12 August 2004 12:24:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 11 August 2004

Update: Six more invites available to resourceful peoples who can follow instructions... Wow, making a real mess of this post! ;-)

I have one invitation to offer up for a Gmail account. First email to reach me gets it. You'll have to find/guess the email address though. ;-)

WINNER: Tim Gilbreath was first, and got the gmail account. Thanks for playing. :-)

EDIT: This is apparently harder than I thought it would be... No, no everyone... Not my regular email address, and it's not like it's rocket science or anything... Look around you. Follow the yellow brick road, push the envelope, open your eyes... Heh...



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Random Stuff
Wednesday, 11 August 2004 19:42:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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