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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Off The List...

Eagles are back.

Apparently, the bald eagle is about to be taken off the endangered species list. Considering that by the end of the '60s it was almost extinct, this is a good thing.

Thought it was worth the mention here on Eagle's Roost. :)

Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhone It In...

Well, this is the big day for Apple. The iPhone is hitting the streets after a lot of hype. Will it be worth it? The jury is going to be out on that one for a while I would think. The $500 price point and minimum 2 year contract is enough to probably turn a lot of people off right from the start. It's really only for true geeks and early adopters at this point, although everybody seems to want one.

It's an intriguing concept for a phone. The fact you activate it through iTunes and Apple is handling all the customer service rather than the provider is quite the departure from normal cellphone procedures. The "multitouch" interface is fascinating too. Watching the vids over at Apple of how it works looks great, but I'm still leary of it. I like the concept, but that screen is going to be taking a lot of abuse - how long will it last? Still, it's probably the future for devices. All touchy feely. The small 4-8GB storage is also a letdown. For something that's supposed to play music, video, and hold other data, that's small. I suspect they'll be increasing that in due time though.

I still think though, what will make or break the iPhone isn't the product itself. Even if Apple did a fantastic job on it and it does everything they say it will do perfectly and the screen and battery lasts, the problem is that Apple isn't the only part of the equation on this. The exclusive carrier (AT&T in the States) will be the biggest factor. Because at the end of the day, it's a phone and it's got to work as one. If you don't like AT&T, then what? And whenever the iPhone gets to Canada, it'll probably be exclusive to Rogers, and does anybody want that? Their rates aren't great, but it's really the only option for a GSM phone. Fido is owned by Rogers, so that's a moot point. With no competition, they can set the rates to whatever they want.

So yes, I do want one, but I think it's about a year or two away from being close to a practical investment (especially in Canada). The storage has to get bigger, the unit has to be proven dependable, the price must drop, and we have to hope that Apple will pressure Rogers to put out a decent rate package. They did it with iTunes and the Music industry, they're going after the Movie industry, and now the Cellphone industry. Who knows, they just might do it. Either that, or they'll have a flame out and all the early adopters will have a fancy $500 paperweight.

Tagged With Questions...

Hey look, I've been tagged. Heidi over at Comics Fairplay tagged me with a meme going around called "The Eight Questions of Blazing Death." Why it's called that, I have no idea. This is the gist of it:

"Here are the rules:
- Each player starts with eight random facts about themselves.
- Those who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight facts and post these rules.
- At the end of the post, choose some people to get tagged and list their names."

1. I can do just about anything naturally with either my left or right hand, except for cursive handwriting (printing I can do). My dominant hand is right, but I can usually switch to my left without a problem.

2. I have three kidneys. It's no secret on my blog here that I've been on dialysis and had a kidney transplant, but what always throws people is when they find out I have 3 kidneys in me now. My now defunct original two, and the upgrade I got a couple years back. Modern medicine can be oddly cool sometimes.

3. I really, really want to learn sign language. I just have to get off my butt and do it. It's the only other language I've ever had any interest in learning.

4. I wanted to be a Private Investigator, and might have been (had a job offer), but health problems kicked in. As a side note, I took Law and Investigation in college, and one of the classes was forensics. Coolest most fascinating class I've ever taken. Watched autopsies, broke glass and learned how to reassemble it, learned about fire burn marks and blood splatter, and more. Just awesomely cool stuff.

5. I love old 40's movies. Bogart and old noir films especially. Casablanca is a definite favorite.

6. I like Pepsi, hate the taste of Coke. Can't drink either one anymore. I miss Pepsi with Pizza...

7. I'm a Canadian, and have been out west all the way to Vancouver Island a couple times and traveled through the Rockies, but never been further East than Ottawa. No real desire to either. I'd rather travel West again or go up north. Tuktyuktuk, NWT!

8. After getting burned out on school texts, it was the book The Reckoning by James Byron Huggins that got me back into reading. It was the graphic novel Sin City: The Hard Goodbye by Frank Miller that made me want to try to write.

And there ya go. Some bits of info about the elusive Eaglewing :)
As for tagging others, I'm too tired at the moment to do up HTML links and so forth, but if anyone who reads this wants to do a list up and continue it on across the web, leave a comment and I'll put up a link to ya. Or do a quick list in the comment section too...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Chris Benoit: An Unexpected & Tragic End

Still wrapping my head around this one. Chris Benoit, a Canadian WWE Wrestler, reportedly killed his wife and 7 year old son over a span of time on the weekend before killing himself at their Atlanta home. It pretty much came out of nowhere, as he was a respected and successful wrestler who was perceived as a family man and all round good guy. Not sure if we'll ever know what happened to cause a result this tragic.

I used to watch WWE wrestling some years back, although more for brainless entertaining distraction than as a real fan of it. I kind of lost interest after the Stone Cold and Rock eras ended (not to mention the end of Team Extreme with the Hardy Boys and Lita) and they split the shows with too many new (and uninspired) characters to keep track of. Still, if I was home on a Monday or Thursday night and nothing better was on, I'd flip over and watch for a bit and I'd tend to watch with interest if Benoit was in the match. He went by the nicknames "The Canadian Crippler" or "The Rabid Wolverine" and was a skilled tactical wrestler with a never say die attitude in the ring.

So, it came as a bit of a shock to flip over to TSN Monday night and find the WWE program eulogizing Benoit and then to find out what really happened. Steriods are being blamed as a factor of course ('roid rage), although WWE has stated his last drug test April 10 was clean. Guess we'll never truly know what led to such a bizarre and tragic end for that family.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Free - and Actually Useful - Programs

So, all this MP3 research has led me to some interesting software. There's iTunes Agent, iTunes Export, and Music Bridge, that can be used in combos with iTunes and WMP to get your songs and playlists to your non iPod device in some kind of order. They've got their plusses and minuses of course, but they do give you options you don't get using just iTunes or WMP.

Then, I've been researching the AppleTV product and hacks to make it useful. The Mac hackers out there have really been doing a job on it, and once I learn some of what the terminal codes they're using do, I might be able to figure out whats going on. Apparently, it's doable to add a bigger hard drive, add Perian codec pack, add SSH to remotely control the device, and so on.

But what's really caught my attention were two new programs that really kick some ass in sheer usefulness. The first one I'd heard of before, but only recently downloaded it, and it's great. VLC MEDIA PLAYER is THE media player to have. It's playing just about everything I can throw at it (including Quicktime and Flash) without additional codecs to install. Not only that, it can reportedly play streaming video and maybe save it as well, though I haven't figured that out yet. But the Best feature is using it as DVD playing software. You can pick to either have it start right at the menu or go straight to the movie. NO MORE will I have to sit through PowerDVD's useless grayed out root menu, fast forward, and skip options while I try to get past the trailers, commercials, notices, and whatever else the dumbass DVD companies put at the front of their discs. Straight to the menu and into the movie from now on. I'm not even going to bother replacing my dead DVD player either - I'm going to hook a computer to my TV and use VLC. Sweet program - and it's FREE and cross platform!

The other one is a FREE transcoding program simply called SUPER. Again, just about every codec you can think of - video or audio - is included. A really easy interface lays out all your options and a couple clicks later you're transcoding video. Unlike some other software, it's not bloated with more than you need. Drag and drop your file, pick your container, video codec, audio codec, set your options, and start. Looks like it'll transcode just about anything. Only downsides - it's only for Windows and the website is a little hard to navigate through to find the download. So you can download it here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Wide 35...

Whoops. So, You Kill Me was reported as a wide release on Yahoo. BUT, over on Box Office Mojo, it's reporting that it opened in 35 theatres. That's a wide release? I don't think so. Guess it's in limited release, and by the time it gets around here my interest will have passed.

Oh well, at least with a 35 theatre opening, I don't feel too ripped off. I'll just wait for DVD like usual...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Show Me The Movie!

Ok, this is getting ridiculous.

For the third time this year, I had a spur of the moment interest in seeing a movie on opening weekend, but couldn't because even though the movie was supposedly released wide, it wasn't being shown around here. What the?

Earlier this year, it happened with The Lookout. Then it was Black Snake Moan that wasn't playing for another month. This weekend it was You Kill Me. It's a dark comedy starring Ben Kingsley and Tea Leoni. Kingsley plays an alcoholic hitman who has to go to AA meetings and winds up working temporarily in a funeral parlor while he tries to get his life back together because his drinking is affecting his 'work', which is killing people. The trailer looked good, Kingsley is always interesting to watch, and I thought it looked like my kind of movie. So I looked at the listings and guess what - it's not playing! Argh!!

You know, just maybe I don't want to watch what the rest of the masses are watching - Pirates, Shrek, Evan Almighty, etc. Could the megaplex not spare one theatre for a smaller movie? And they wonder why I don't go to the movies anymore...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

What's On The Radio...

So, on the way home from work I managed to find these songs on my radio hunt:

Coward of the County - Kenny Rogers,
1000 Miles from Nowhere - Dwight Yoakam
Suspicious Minds - Dwight Yoakam
5 Days in May - Blue Rodeo
If Everyone Cared - Nickelback

Not bad...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

UMS, MTP, M3U, PLA, WMP......D'Oh!

Well, after flying all over the internet to try to find solutions for the MP3 player dream machine, I think I've finally come up with an equitable solution.

Using the Insignia 4GB model, we've got MTP and UMS, FM Radio, OGG support, 30FPS video, photos, line in record, and the big plus - a replaceable battery. So, this is the model we're going with - win or lose.

First off, had to find a way to get XP to see it in UMS mode. After scouring the 'net and messing around myself in the registry, I found by accident - on the official website no less - the easy way to do it right in XP. I swear they updated their website recently, cause that wasn't there the first time I looked. Either way, it's easy and works great. So, flipping back and forth is no problem.

Next step was to find a way it could sync with iTunes even though it's not an iPod. Got that solved with a 3rd party software and unit in UMS mode. Big problem though, was that there was no playlist support. I could easily send a playlist of songs from iTunes to the player, but they wound up there in nice folder structure, but no way other than Play All to go through them on the player. So technically it works, but it's not organized.

More testing came up with the realization that the only way to get playlists was to sync it with WMP10 or 11. Ugh. And it comes over in .pla files. No converter from M3U to PLA would work. Back to square one.

So, I finally hit on a piece of software that works great. Music Bridge. With a quick click or two, you can easily sync all your info (including playlists!) from iTunes to WMP. Then, I put the player in MTP mode, hooked up to WMP11, and synced a playlist. Perfect. Music AND Playlists goes over to the device.

So, it's a little chunky, but I can continue to use iTunes for all the music stuff, and whenever I want to send it to the player, I do a quick sync to WMP and then update the player with my playlists. And then quickly close WMP.

A bit of work, but it's pretty seamless now. If Insignia ever comes out with the promised firmware upgrade to support M3U files, we can cut out WMP altogether. Until then, we use the 3 point sync :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Looks Aren't Everything...But It Helps

So, as I wait for the perfect timing (and cash) to go get my new MacBook, I loaded up my XP to make it look like a MAC. And with the dock added, it almost functions a little like one. Got a nice clean look going here, some handy Yahoo Widgets (giving me the weather for my own town), and even the Apple logo up in the corner in place of the ubiquitous Green Start button. And it was all done with free stuff on the net. Took a bit to figure it all out, but I like the look and learned some new stuff.

The dock is a cool program called RocketDock, the widgets are from Yahoo, iTunes and Quicktime is from Apple of course, there's a free OGG Quicktime plugin out there, the Tiger theme is from StudioTwentyEight, and the necessary UXTheme.dll Patcher was a download from somewhere so that I could run the 'msstyles' theme. There are even Mac Icons out there if you're up to it. Put it all together, and you get a pretty slick interface.

XP looking like a Mac

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dark Knight Pic of the New Bat Suit

batmannewsuit.jpg (JPEG Image, 1399x2100 pixels)

Click the link to check out a hi-res photo of the new Batman suit for the upcoming Dark Knight movie coming next year. Looks pretty badass to me.

Friday, June 15, 2007

New Goodies...

Ah yes, Christmas in June - my Amazon box got here! Yippee!

I'd sold some stuff to make room ('n cash) for the new stuff - let's see what we got here...Rockford Season 4, of course...Moonlighting Seasons 4 & 5 on sale to complete the series (Bruce Willis in comedic form)...the hilariously short lived comedy Titus Season 3 to complete the series on sale...and Miami Vice seasons 3 & 4. I missed the first go round of Vice obviously, but I'm digging the show on DVD. Dated sometimes, but some good stuff.

Then I also got the book Firefly: The Official Companion Volume Two. I had forgot this was coming out till I saw it at Chapters. They were selling it for $32CAN. Ouch. I got it from Amazon for $16US. Even with conversion its a steal.

Then a new graphic novel I'm really looking forward to reading - Scene Of the Crime: A Little Piece of Goodnight by Ed Brubaker. A noir / P.I. story that sounds like it's right up my alley. I'm probably looking forward to reading this more than watching some of the DVD's.

Brubaker and Garth Ennis are probably my two favorite comics writers right now - Brubaker on "Criminal" and "Daredevil" and Ennis on "Punisher", "The Boys", and of course his famous "Preacher" series I'm still working my way through. "Criminal" and "Punisher" in particular are some of the best writing and story telling going at the moment. Better than most of what you'll find on TV these days too. It's a shame so many people think so little of the comics/graphic novel format. They're missing some fantastic writing and great art thanks to some archaic preconceived misconceptions. Oh well - their loss.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Big Hair Day...

This was just wild to see on Yahoo. Had to post it up. Any Canadians want to try that?

Big hair winner Tricia Nathan of Grafton, Mass., salutes to the judges during the Imperia Vodka Hair Competition in Manchester, N.H. on Saturday June 2.

New Wallpaper...

After quickly making the pic in the last post, I got to thinking - that could make a nice wallpaper. Since I like my wallpapers on the mid to darker side of the color spectrum, I went with black and white. Plus, I was experimenting with some Photodraw tools. It's not the greatest, but I did learn something: Don't use a lot of text on a variable gray, black, and white background. It's really hard to make it all readable.

Long Way From Home

You can download the full 1280x1024 size here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Long Way...

iUse iTunes

I'm starting to really dig iTunes.

The other night, I caught the fantastic biopic movie Walk The Line again on TMN. There is a brief scene with Cash (Phoenix) and Waylon Jennings (played by his son, Shooter Jennings) talking at what looks like an apartment. Jennings is playing a great tune I had forgotten about - "I'm A Long Way From Home." It's brief in the movie, but he does a soulful, acoustic version of what is a real country song. I had to have that song. Like now.

So I fired up iTunes, did some quick searching and found it on the Soundtrack. It went right in the cart. A little more browsing and I found a Waylon Jennings version of Midnight Rider. Another great tune. Then I stumbled over the new Big & Rich album "Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace" and picked up a couple more great tunes. (the current single "Lost in This Moment", the title track, and "Faster Than Angels Fly" are all really good tunes).

So, a couple bucks later and a quick download, I was listening to some great music and I never had to leave the house to get it. Not to mention the money I did spend only went to tracks I actually wanted. Push them through the DRM cleaner, set up a new playlist in iTunes, and I have been cycling through it with the album art rolling past for each track. I guess I'm slowing coming over to the dark side of iTunes :) While it's still not as streamlined as Winamp, with a few 3rd party software addons I've just recently found, it might turn into something truly useful.

"Glass? Who Cares About Glass?" - John McClane

Well, that was fun. Went to grab a glass off the counter to get some water, and it somehow slipped right out of my hand and went for the floor. I came within a hair of grabbing it with my other hand, but missed it. It hit the floor and didn't just break, it exploded. Shards and chunks of glass all over the floor. Luckily, the glass had been empty at the time.

So, I dismally set about to pick up the pieces and and on the last piece I picked up, I cut myself, of course. Not a real cut, so much as a small jab under the finger nail. I didn't think much of it, just ran some cold water over it and continued on vacuuming up the rest of the small bits.

But then the finger kept nagging me, so I took a closer look, thought I saw something, and got a flashlight. Sure enough, there was the most incredibly smallest bit of thin glass shard still stuck in the tip of my finger, just under the fingernail. So, time for a make shift MASH unit. A careful look with a flashlight gave me the angle, and in lieu of tweezers I don't have, I used a small pair of scissors and on the 4th attempt managed to grip it and pull it out. Another cold water rinse, and all seems well.

And all I wanted was a glass of water.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Something Old, Nothing New...

Well, Ottawa may have lost the Stanley Cup, but at least the Hamilton Bulldogs won the Calder Cup in the AHL. Go Canada!

Nothing else new here...still in a creative brownout, but I guess I've had other things on the mind. Work is going...still want a MacBook...and there are a lot of things to look for when looking for an MP3 player of any kind of quality. I've learned the difference between UMS (good) and MTP (bad) - why would anyone want to buy an MP3 player that only works with Windows and WMP10 (MTP)? What if you want to hook it up to another operating system? I'll stick with USB Mass Storage devices. And no, I'm not going to buy an iPod either. Not a fan of the can opener approach to changing a battery or mailing away a $300 device to get it replaced...with a refurbed iPod! They don't even send you your own one back. They just recycle them around. No thanks.

And I've got to reload my Windows now too. This thing is unstable. Wobble, Wobble, this house of cards isn't looking good. Time to backup and format! YeeHaw! At least I've got Rockford Files and Miami Vice DVD seasons on the way from Amazon to entertain me while I watch the sands of the Microsoft hourglass tick by...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

We Have A Loser!

For the third straight year, a Canadian team went to the Stanley Cup Finals and lost. Big Shock. I've given up any hope of seeing a Canadian team with the cup any time soon. The other thing is that I found myself not really interested at all in the final this year. I only watched one of the games. I figured Ottawa would lose, and they did, and I had zero interest in Anaheim or any of the players on either team really, so it was kind of a ho-hum thing. Of course, maybe being in the middle of summer during the Cup finals kind of took me out of it.

Oh well, another year gone and my gradually diminishing interest in hockey takes another hit. I love it during the winter, but once the weather warms up, my interest goes to baseball. And with global warming in full effect, that seems to be coming sooner each year.

All that said to basically hide the fact I'm bummed about a team from California winning the Cup. Stupid Ducks...

We Have A Winner?

So, after months of looking and researching and saving pennies, I think I have finally made a decision on how I'm going to upgrade my current computer situation. And the winner is...

A MacBook!

Ok, I'll also need a new LCD display to hook it up to since I don't feel like squinting at a 13 inch display all the time and my current 17" monitor is too small of real estate, but this should solve my upgrading needs. I'll use the MacBook as my desktop hooked up to a big screen, and then take it with me whenever I want for ultra portability. Then I can turn my currently stuttering Windows desktop into a slick Linux file server and DVR. And since I can run Windows XP on the Mac as well, I've got the best of all worlds.

And the best part of this - I can say goodbye to Microsoft. Well, mostly anyway, and any less reliance on Microsoft products is a good thing. I can convert my standards for free - Firefox, Thunderbird, and OpenOffice, to a Mac for ease of conversion. The rest is a learning curve, but after playing around on Mac's at an Apple reseller, I don't think that will be all that bad.

So, I just need to save a few more pennies for the overly expensive Mac hardware, and I'll be off. Soon, very soon...