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DesktopWeb FormText   how to know you live in TXTue, 25 Dec 2007 15:31:32 GMT # 

if you have 5 churches and 1 temple within a mile of your home. i totally feel like i'm behind enemy lines.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : still love the new gymSun, 23 Dec 2007 17:33:08 GMT # 

the new gym is so awesome that it's even open on christmas and new years! that kicks ass. i hate having to change my workout schedule based on holidays.

my shoulder and leg pains seem to be getting better. my workouts in WI were really pathetic the last couple months because i couldnt do much. now i have a ton of different equipment to use, so i can find which movements/machines dont bother my shoulder, and i can do a different leg workout every time. i'm actually starting to think that i became injury prone in WI because i was limited to performing the same exercises over and over again.

my weights are down right now, but coming back quick. max on bench is probably 325. not so sure on squat but 375 is a conservative guess. since it's easy to regain lost strength, i'm expecting those numbers to move up the next couple weeks. just need to be careful that my joints can keep up.

the new gym smell has also boosted the testosterone levels. i totally feel like i'm competing with the other guys there and that i'm marking out my territory. yep, i know that sounds primal and stupid. but being in the new environment and around new people is a huge pickup.


DesktopWeb FormText   electric company visitFri, 21 Dec 2007 23:35:32 GMT # 

they said it'd be 10 days, but they just came out. he found a 'neutral shift' between a junction and the house. so he ran a temporary cable between the 2 and used a machine to simulate a bunch of load. TV was on when he added the load, and everything stayed on. the lights only dimmed a little. so somebody will come out next week and rerun the cable underground. the bad thing is that there is still a bit of a neutral shift. its supposed to match up perfect, but its still a little off even with the temp cable, and he wasn't sure why. he stood there for a while thinking that over. great ...


DesktopWeb FormText   latest electrician visitFri, 21 Dec 2007 20:04:23 GMT # 

this time he changed out the refrigerator breaker and inside outlet. he double checked that everything was on a different circuit, and they were; but my TV, computers, and refrigerators are on the same leg of the panel. if i check my NAS power outage logs, they are worse in the evenings. so the theory is that when everybody gets home from work, that it's too much load on the transformer, and that my current is dropping too low to power my equipment. so i'm not actually losing power, but i'm not getting enough current at times. its now a waiting game ... to see what happens when my neighbors come home. i've got a call into my electric company too, but they wont make it out for 10 business days. regardless, i'm definitely having the electrician come back after the holidays to go through the entire house and check/fix all my outlets. might have him run another line from my upstairs bedroom to the downstairs computer room, to get those on a different line.


DesktopWeb FormText   wtf ... the xbox is working againFri, 21 Dec 2007 18:24:47 GMT # 

hmm ... i must be losing my mind. last night, the power went out while the 360 was playing a video ... when the power came back (5 seconds later), the 360 wasn't able to read any Memory Units at all (i tried 3 MUs, each in both slots). of course i powered the 360 on and off a couple times. everything else seemed to be working on the 360; games, videos, harddrive, streaming, ... but not the MUs

this morning, i bought a new UPS from APC. moved the TV and 360 over to it. fired the 360 up to see if the latest Infrant ReadyNAS update made it a UPnP server to the 360 (it does!) ... but the weird thing is my gamer profile signed in. WTF! go to the System blade-Memory tab and the MU is there with all the game saves. honestly, i have no freakin clue ... just sitting here with a stunned look on my face


DesktopWeb FormText   360 cannot read MUs anymoreFri, 21 Dec 2007 02:39:11 GMT # 

if i was betting, i would have totally bet that the MU was corrupt ... i'm glad we weren't betting.

the MU might still be corrupt, but i dont have the 2nd 360 to fully test with. at least using Xplorer360, it shows the 2 partitions and alot of data on the MU ... which makes me think its fine.

attacking from the other direction, i tried 2 clean MU units in both slots ... and neither were recognized. so my 2nd 360, which was actually provided by MS for being an MCE MVP (at the time), seems to work except for the MU reader. i don't think that box is even included under the extended 3 year warranty plan ... not to mention this isnt the RROD. anyway, i wrote enough MCE articles that ran on the 360, and even some XNA code, that i think MS got their moneys worth out of it. but with the 360s lame DRM scheme, requiring sneakernetting an MU between consoles, its now pretty much a boat anchor for me as a consumer.

so after 2 (and 1.5) years of no problems, within a months timeframe i have 1 dead 360 and 1 partially broken 360. believe it or not ... i was actually considering upgrading to an elite. based on the costomer service i've gotten so far ... that is now out of the question. out of principal.


DesktopWeb FormText   boot to the headFri, 21 Dec 2007 00:17:32 GMT # 

now it's just getting pathetic. had the xbox 360 on playing a video, power went out, and now the memory unit isn't recognized by the 360 at all. no gamer profile, no saved games, nothing. about a year ago, i had a game profile get corrupted on a different memory unit, but the MU was still recognized and the saved games were still there. all i had to do was recover the gamer profile ... not much lost. this time ... the MU doesnt even show up whatsoever. oh yeah, i had to keep everything on an MU, because i used to have 2 360s (one went back with the RROD). because of the 360s DRM, i had to shuffle the MU between consoles. now the 2nd 360 is possibly broke (not able to read MUs), or my MU is corrupt? i cant test the MU ... because the original 360 is off for repairs. i'll have to find an old MU and see if its recognized. i do have one of those cables laying around for reading MUs on a PC, will have to see if anything is left. oh yeah ... i just found a scenario for Windows Home Server backing up an Xbox 360. what a bunch of crap. anybody else want to come by and kick me in the balls? at this point, i dont think i'd feel it.


DesktopWeb FormText   losing power (and patience)Thu, 20 Dec 2007 21:11:27 GMT # 

freakin power just went out again. not an angry person, but this is really pissing me off. damn ghosts :)

i'm bringing up ghosts jokingly, because i just leave the TV on (to see when the surge is bad) the discovery channel. in the morning, they play this 'a haunting' show about possible haunted houses. i dont like the show because they aren't skeptical at all. its just background noise while i'm at the computer, and i'm not compelled to channel surf for something else ... er, um, actually i'm waiting for MythBusters to come on. what i really dont like is they recreate the scenes using actors. the funny thing is i almost believe the actors, because they are pretty people. but as soon as they switch over to the people that actually lived through it, and i see that they are as ugly as me, then i dont believe the stories anymore. not sure when i became this shallow?


DesktopWeb FormText   more powerThu, 20 Dec 2007 16:17:29 GMT # 

electrician came back and this time he targeted the panel the refrigerator is on. he ended up tightening the wires on that outlet. i'm not feeling very confident though, because he didn't have an explanation for why it worked for a week with no problems after tightening the connections on the circuit breaker. he said something about electricity being 'fickle'


DesktopWeb FormText   power is screwed again (or the condo is haunted)Thu, 20 Dec 2007 05:26:32 GMT # 

had been losing power whenever the fridge kicked on, but the breaker was never tripped. sometimes it would kick off the TV even though it was on an UPS with surge protection. electrician came by and tightened all the wires in the fusebox and that fixed it for a week.

well it went out Monday morning. i know this because the ReadyNAS sends me an email everytime its on UPS power. Monday afternoon, it did another surge to kick off the TV. yesterday, it kicked off the TV a couple times. tonight ... its been kicking on and off for 5 minute intervals ... which is worse than it was to begin with. i've got a newer UPS on my NAS and WHS, and they seem to be surviving the surge without any problems but my older UPS on the TV cant handle it (else its because they are in different rooms).

electrician is back tomorrow morning. my uneducated guess is that i'll be getting a new fusebox. not happy that a post 2K house is having problems like this. its not like this hasnt been done before. which means it must be a ghost ... probably xmas past. if this crap keeps up, the ghost of xmas future will see me moving again.


DesktopWeb FormText   360 casket finally arrivedTue, 18 Dec 2007 18:27:35 GMT # 

after 21 days. to add insult to injury, the free game (which i already owned) arrived last week. still pissed off


DesktopWeb FormText   just lost a bunch of free space on VistaSun, 16 Dec 2007 18:52:36 GMT # 

after the latest rounds of Vista updates, i seem to have lost a bunch of free disk space. previously, i had about 40 gigs free and 50 used. this morning, i noticed i only had about 15 gigs free. deleted some shadow copies got me back to about 25 gigs free. but i'm still missing around 15 free gigs. if i run WinDirStat to visualize disk usage, it shows 50 gigs used (as expected). my initial guess is that shadow copy has become more aggressive in claiming that space? if so, i'm probably going to turn it off and rely on WHS for backups.


DesktopWeb FormText   reliable electricityWed, 12 Dec 2007 18:23:29 GMT # 

woohoo ... it looks like my electrical problems have been fixed. what was happening is the refrigerator would kick in, send a surge across the line, and this surge would knock out my TV and computer equipment in different rooms and on different circuits. it would not trip the breaker. it would occasionally knock out the TV on an UPS with surge protection. just to screw with me ... it would not happen all the time the refrigerator kicked in.

the problem ended up being some loose wires (neutral) in the fuse box and a loose wire on the fridge plug as well. the added variable that was keeping it from happening every time the fridge kicked in was outside temperature, because my fusebox is located outside. on the cooler days (and at night), the wires would shrink just a bit, and the surge would knock out my equipment more often than on warm days.


DesktopWeb FormText   horrible xbox 360 supportTue, 11 Dec 2007 17:20:34 GMT # 

this has been my worst customer support expierence in a while. my original 360 breaks on November 28th. that day i submit the repair request to xbox.com/support ... which was made to handle such requests. wait 5 days and its status still says something to the effect or 'repair request submitted'. figured something should be happening so i call them up and find out that the box to ship it back was never sent out. that repair agent was supposed to fix my order. no box yesterday night, so i call in again ... there system is down, they cant help me. call back this morning and the agent sees that my original repair request (almost 2 weeks old) never went anywhere. when i called back last week ... that never went anywhere. they are going to make me start over and create a new repair. i tell them that i've already waited 2 weeks, can they expedite this. not to mention i paid Microsoft for extended support. end up talking to a supervisor and they will not expedite the shipment. they apologize ... not helpful. they offer me a free game ... all of which i already have from MS company store (MVP benefit). i tell them that's not going to make me a happy customer ... at which point we stalemate. i ask them what paying for the extended warranty is actually doing for me ... not much, it pretty much only covers the DVD laser now. they did not extend it in anyway after MS announced the 3 year extension because of hardware failures. i tell them they should have left the extended warranty i paid for as-is, and then extend me out another 3 years beyond that because of hardware failures ... or refund me. since paying for the extended warranty does not do anything to get you better service. the moral of the story is after almost 2 weeks of waiting, my repair has effictively started over ... and i'm a very unhappy customer.


DesktopWeb FormText   nevermind about WHS being slowTue, 11 Dec 2007 16:07:34 GMT # 

hmm ... now its up to 10 MB/sec. ended up turning off Media Sharing and restarting it. my uneducated guess is that it was chewing up cycles indexing the music files i had just copied to it, and that is why it was dog slow earlier? else something had gotten hosed and a restart cleaned it up? will have to turn media sharing back on and see if that grinds it to a halt.


DesktopWeb FormText   slow WHS copy speedsTue, 11 Dec 2007 15:34:39 GMT # 

WHS is slow. copying files on the same network from the same client computer. my ReadyNAS drive is sustaining 10 MB/sec, while my HP WHS is around 1.75 MB/sec. time to find the bottleneck. there are posts to temporarily turn off folder duplication and media sharing (both of which i have on). turning off media sharing would be an annoyance, but i'd rather not turn off duplication.


DesktopWeb FormText   WHS resetSun, 09 Dec 2007 16:50:07 GMT # 

wiped the WHS and started over. instead of trying to break it, i'm actually playing nicely now. spent yesterday figuring out where i needed to move data among the different drives, what needs to be duped, etc ... so i've got room to grow. under the perception that data is a gas ... because it always expands to fit whatever storage device i purchase.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : the gyms are bigger in TXSat, 08 Dec 2007 19:00:53 GMT # 

haven't lifted much for the last month between moving and a shoulder injury. just signed up at a new gym and its awesome! the membership is $15 cheaper per month than what i paid in WI and it has 3X the equipment. now i've got a T-bar, hack squat, decline bench, tons of machines ... open 24 hrs ... sanctuary

now here's the part where it proves i've spent too much time at gyms. i'm there 5 minutes and a guy walks up and asks where i've been? never actually talked to the guy before, but i recognized him. ends up that we'd worked out at a common gym over 10 years ago.


DesktopWeb FormText   dont whiz on the electric fenceSat, 08 Dec 2007 18:37:58 GMT # 

this post is just in case i accidently electrocute myself :)

it seems that everytime my refrigerator kicks in, it temporarily overloads a circuit. er, um ... by 'temporarily overloads a circuit' ... that's me attempting to sound like i have a clue. what's really weird to me is that it freakin knocks out everything. the fridge is in the kitchen, and it temporarily freaks out the NAS in the computer room and the TV in the living room. both are on an UPS ... but it went the extra mile once this morning, and the TV still went out. the UPS is supposed to be battery backup and surge ... so i'm not sure how that happened? its not like this is an entirely old school fridge either, i'm pretty sure its at least 2001.

calling an electriction, but i got a test kit to attempt some troubleshooting myself ... which means i'm likely to get shocked!


DesktopWeb FormText   first WHS failureSat, 08 Dec 2007 06:54:23 GMT # 

that didn't take long. i was pushing it by adding an additional drive and such while files were copying. everything seemed to work initially, but then the drive just went away. the drive was in a bad state such that WHS would only recognize it as 'missing'. multiple restarts and it wasnt able to recover. couldn't repair the drive either. took the drives out and looked at them as regular SATA drives and the files weren't there. going to reset it and try again.


DesktopWeb FormText   first hours with WHSSat, 08 Dec 2007 05:18:21 GMT # 

the initial setup was easy. plug-in ethernet and power ... done. already owning a ReadyNAS, i made sure to put the WHS on an UPS. i really like how ReadyNAS stressed the use of an UPS and its console takes an email address to shoot off an email when its on battery power or if the temperature of a drive gets warm. definitely want to see that in the WHS console. hot swapped some drives in to the WHS and that mostly worked. 1 of my drives shows up in the console as being added but the LED is not on ... not sure whats up with that yet? do really like that the harddrives dont have to be identical, like the RAID setup on ReadyNAS. copied some files and it seemed fast enough; but i'll have to do some speed tests vs ReadyNAS. my assumption is ReadyNAS's hardware will be faster than what WHS does in software, but i'll take that loss of speed for the flexibility that WHS offers. e.g. duplicating certain folders but not others. installed the WHS console on one machine and was annoyed that i couldnt find the install as a download off of microsoft.com. had to use the install DVD that it came with it ... hate physical media. now i see that its already shared by WHS. fired up the 360 and saw it as a UPnP AV server. what i really like about this is that its entirely file based without screwing around with WMP11s media library ... hate media library. the ReadyNAS can be used as UPnP server too, but i just use Tversity running on my MCE machine to share the NAS files. deleted some files that i just copied over and they were gone. i mean gone gone. the ReadyNAS is much nicer in this regard because it creates a RecycleBin folder and 'moves' the files to the RecycleBin. then you can really delete from the RecycleBin. WHS should really have RecycleBin functionality too. it does have some time-dependent shadow copy functionality, which'll be too complicated for homes.


DesktopWeb FormText   windows home server arrivedSat, 08 Dec 2007 00:53:01 GMT # 

i generally love it when amazon.com lies to me. said a WHS wouldn't make it before the holidays ... but here it is :) now its time to throw some bits on it. not sure if i'm going to write any code to run on it. dont have too many ideas at the moment ... but that'll probably change.

chose the 500gb HP model. would have got the 1tb if that had been a single 1tb drive, instead of dual 500s.

the main selling point for me is WHS backup capabilities. i absolutely suck at backing up, so i'm hoping this will fix that. but now the problem is that i'm in a condo (i.e. connected houses), and i dont trust my neighbors to not burn the place down since they cant remember their own parking spots ... so now i have to think about off-site backups.


DesktopWeb FormText   red ring of deathThu, 06 Dec 2007 21:08:19 GMT # 

had an original 360 thats been working great for just under 2 years, but it died last week. when i bought it, i paid for the extended warranty through MS ... before the RROD was known, and before MS extended the warranty to 3 years. so i went to xbox.com/support to register and get setup to ship it off and get it replace. well, its been something like 5 business days, and my order still says 'repair order submitted'. i have yet to receive the box to ship it back in. if i call the xbox line, it says to wait up to 10 days ... wtf? what really pisses is me off is that i paid for the extended warranty, which would make me think i'd get better support. now i'm an unhappy customer. they should have sent me out the casket immediately, and their online status should be more granular than 'repair order submitted'.

so i'm pissed off now, and i'm assuming it is going to get worse. since i have 2 consoles, i buy all my content on the original console (now dead) and then use a Memory Unit to sign into the 2nd. with the 360s DRM for downloadable content, it is locked to the console that you purchased it on as well as your gamertag. in this manner, the content is always available on both consoles. checking the 360 forums, there is a long thread about the content no longer being tied to your replacement console. if that happens, then i'll have to sneakernet the MU between consoles. there are posts about MS working around that ... anyway, i'm hoping they dont piss me off with that too.


DesktopWeb FormText   xbox 360 video updateTue, 04 Dec 2007 15:35:52 GMT # 

gave the 360 update a spin this morning ... and i am VERY pleased with the video updates. DivX and XviD works great. it did fail on some of my original DVD rips, but that just gives me an excuse to re-rip for better quality! hope they continue to expand their codec support (MPEG-2/VOB without MCE, FLV if we ever get a browser, MKV?). now it also lists multiple UPnP servers; previously i had to disconnect and reconnect all the time. buffering has become more visible to the user, and i'm wondering if that might fix the buffer problems i've had with video streams within MCE extender sessions? very nice.


DesktopWeb FormText   coming back onlineSun, 02 Dec 2007 02:21:06 GMT # 

server was down for the last week while i made the move to TX. stuff arrived today, so the server is back online. new internet provider and new router ... so hopefully this setup is more reliable.


DesktopWeb FormText   going offline while movingWed, 21 Nov 2007 22:32:24 GMT # 

my server will be down while i move ... starting this weekend. hope to be back online late next week or the week after.


DesktopWeb FormText   MCE SDK 5.3 drops XBAPWed, 21 Nov 2007 18:36:12 GMT # 

wtf. why?


DesktopWeb FormText   initial response : Zune30 v2Sat, 17 Nov 2007 16:25:06 GMT # 

my initial attempt with a Zune30 v1 was bad. only reason i decided to give v2 a shot was because of the software update for the Zune30. initial setup was alot better. the only problem was when it tried to sync a couple times before the battery was charged, and that was failing every time. fully charged it on an xbox and then it was able to update and get the latest software, and now its syncing fine.

device. i like the actual device itself ... yes, even the (shit) brown Zune30. the screen is still good and audio quality is great. my only problem with the device is it doesnt use a standard mini USB cable. i believe the v2 hardware doesnt use a standard adapter either. that sucks.

desktop client. the problem here is that client software is needed. the device should just show up as a USB mass storage device and any client software should be optional. serious ... give us access to the file system. i should just be able to drag and drop media onto the device without screwing around with a media library. here is a scenario that i cant do with the client software and Zune30 that file system access would allow. playing MP4s on an Xbox360 (without transcoding). so i could just drag an MP4 file onto the Zune30 (the problem is the client software transcodes it). if the Zune30 just treated it as a raw file, then the 360 (which supports MP4) could play it off the Zune without any transcoding. also, i'd also like to be able to use it as a data transfer device. the desktop client itself is fine. it built its own media library, which causes concern. why didnt it just use the WMP11 media library? now i have 2 different media libraries to keep up ... pain i dont need. the real test will be longevity and if the Zune library doesnt get corrupt at some point. oh yeah, still not sure why its not WPF? Reflector can see a couple of the assemblies : UIX, ZuneDBApi, and ZuneShell.

website. Zune.net is nice. Zune cards are cool. not sure if Zune cards show up on the actual device? still need to try out podcasts on it too.

finally, the device still needs to open up. a screen, WiFi, and buttons is all developers really need. ultimately, the Silverlight runtime should end up on it too. and let people write Zune client plugins to sync custom data to the device.


DesktopWeb FormText   media hardwareFri, 16 Nov 2007 01:55:01 GMT # 

er, um ... i really liked the announcement that V1 Zunes get the software upgrade to V2. it even compelled me to give the Zune a 2nd chance. so i purchased one of those firesale brown ones (yep, i like ugly colors) and will kick it around shortly. if i heard correctly, only the new V2 Zunes support MP4, so i will be missing that feature. plus that'll give me a reason to install the Zune client software and see why the hell they didnt use WPF. anybody try and reflect it yet to see how much its like MCML?

also saw that the PS3 is going to be getting DivX support. just so happens i'm one of those early adopters that ripped all my DVDs to DivX years ago. hauling a bunch of DVDs didnt fit the nomadic lifestyle. anyway, there are rumors that the 360 will be getting DivX with the fall update. honestly, if it doesnt ... dare i say ... i would buy a PS3 for its media capabilities. yep, that sucks. i'm really hoping the fall update doesnt let me down. but i've been wanting/waiting for a true DivX solution on the 360 for over a year. hell, the /mceDivX360 article is almost 2 years old ... what is taking so damn long? anyway, the real hope is that MS comes through with DivX for the 360 and the Zune as the same time. not likely ... but i can dream.


DesktopWeb FormText   e-book readersFri, 16 Nov 2007 01:42:22 GMT # 

returned the Sony eReader to BestBuy. it was just too much of a pain to convert ebook formats. if i just left it as PDF, the font was too small. if i converted PDF to BBeB, then formatting for code segments got all screwed up. and to convert CHM, you had to convert it into an intermediary format first ... introducing another point of failure (and pain). that said, if you just want to read ebooks from Sony's Connect site ... it was a great device. if they update the software to better support PDF and CHM, then i would repurchase. saw that Amazon is going to be releasing an ebook reader, but it doesnt look like it has decent format support either.

since my slate tablet is something like a 4-year old generation 1 device, i finally pulled the trigger to get a motion computing slate. wanted one of their slates for years ... cant wait for it to show up! it will be my primary reading device, and it should be powerful enough for augmented reality too.

the UMPC hasnt really found a place. it just sits on the coffee table but doesnt get used. just not powerful enough. not to mention the shell needs an overhaul for touch use [cough iPhone]. saw that Samsung is going to be releasing a newer version with an upgraded CPU, but i dont think i'd buy again until it offered a bigger CPU, better battery life, and an improved shell.


DesktopWeb FormText   Augmented Reality in .NET presentation is postedWed, 14 Nov 2007 04:23:23 GMT # 

uploaded the powerpoint from the 'Augmented Reality in .NET' presentation tonight. the article and source can be found here : /wpfAugReal


DesktopWeb FormText   WI .NET UG presentation tomorrow : Augmented RealityMon, 12 Nov 2007 19:41:11 GMT # 

i'll be presenting at the WI .NET user group meeting tomorrow; details here


DesktopWeb FormText   as the geese fly (heading to TX)Fri, 09 Nov 2007 17:06:45 GMT # 

closed on a condo in TX (around dallas/my old stomping grounds). so the TS and i will be heading south for winter. will have to make some UG meetings and look for any familiar faces.

officially off contract last week. going to take the rest of November off to play around and teach myself some new tricks. will start looking for a new gig in December. probably short term contracts around Dallas or work that i can do primarily from home (with some travel if needed).


DesktopWeb FormText   review : day 2 with Sony ReaderMon, 05 Nov 2007 17:39:14 GMT # 

still like the hardware, but now the software is really on my shit list. the pre-formatted sample books are in a Sony proprietary format called BBeB (LRF/LRS). creating their own format ... like that ever happens ... now i remember why i hate Sony. might have read something that Sony is going to open the format, but right now it seems to be closed (granted it has been partially reverse engineered). anyway, the BBeB format is what you want on the reader ... it works great. it also supports PDF out of the box, but the problem is you dont get the same level of zoom and pagination (as BBeB), which i consider a requirement. the docs even say something of the effect to read PDF docs in landscape mode to make the font bigger ... what a bunch of crap. so there are 3rd party programs to convert PDF to LRF. tried a couple and they work with varying levels of success depending on how the source PDF was created. haven't found a 3rd party program that directly supports CHM to LRF ... it looks like you need to go through an intermediary conversion process first. the funny/sad thing is that the Reader's ebook Library program's help doc is CHM formatted ... you're kidding me. at least the User Guide is PDF and has half-assed support.

that really sucks ... pretty sure i'll be returning the Sony Reader and wont re-purchase until they open up the BBeB format (for 3rd party tool support) and either provide tools to convert PDF and CHM to BBeB or provide native support for both. because even if the hardware is great, being able to get my own content on the device (with minimal pain) is what matters. until then, i'll continue using a slate Tablet PC as my ebook reader.


DesktopWeb FormText   review : day 1 with sony eReaderSat, 03 Nov 2007 02:30:53 GMT # 

in TX for the end of this week, and was able to pick up a Sony eReader PRS-505 (they haven't found their way to WI yet). it's a grayscale device for reading ebooks, audio, and pictures. anyway, i've been wanting to really give ebooks an attempt with a subscription to an ebook service and a device. bought a UMPC earlier thinking that was going to be my new reading device. but i dont really like it for reading. it works best in landscape mode, and i prefer to read portrait. not to mention heat, noise, battery life. but where the UMPC excels is that it supports all the formats i want to read.

back to the eReader. my initial impression is that the hardware is solid but the software needs alot of work. hardware is thin and light. even with a protective cover, its thin and light. battery life is some ridiculous number of page turns. e-ink seems easy to read ... but i need to try some marathon reading sessions to judge eye strain. MemoryStick and SD card support for tons of storage. screen size could be bigger, but its not too small. it doesnt come with an AC adapter because it can charge over USB ... nice. initial setup was easy and the internal memory just shows up as an external drive!

the sample books are some format i dont know. these books work best on the device and allow for 3 levels of zoom. not sure why its only 3 levels of zoom, they should let people crank it up to be really large print. when i copied some PDFs over, they display fine, but were unreadable (font was too small) because the zoom and re-pagination didnt work. i'm assuming i have to use the eReader software to convert to the other format for zoom and proper pagination? so it seems like PDF is a native format, but you really need to convert it to make it usable. that sucks. but since i have to convert CHM files anyway, it looks like conversion is the rule. also, the title displayed was sometimes metadata for the file and not the actual file name (i'd prefer to see both). for files without TOC, i'd like for it to attempt to derive one on its own. music played fine. didnt look hard, but it wasnt obvious where you could set music to shuffle or sequential. pictures were good too (grayscale). what was nice is you could play music while you were reading or looking at pictures. not sure if you are able to skip tracks while reading a page OR if you have to go to the 'now playing' screen first? also not sure if the pictures functionality supports folders, to where i could make a folder for an unzipped CBR (comic book) file. anyway, will have to try conversion programs when i get home to make my ebooks readable ... and then read through some to know if its a keeper (or not).

overall, i like the hardware, but the software needs a ton of work. i should just be able to copy over PDF files and CHM files and they should work without any conversion (including zoom). that would entail it support CHM at all. i'd also like for it to support LIT, HTM/MHT, CBR, ... it needs alot better format support. and if the eReader doesnt support it natively, at least make the sync software support all the formats. it sucks that i have to go buy a 3rd party CHM converter ... or write my own.


DesktopWeb FormText   HD-DVD cookie bugMon, 29 Oct 2007 03:33:53 GMT # 

so it was dead. ends up there should have been an animation playing, as a weak form of a progress bar. but it was frozen. there's a bug, i'm assuming with the 360 drive, maybe the HD-DVD interactivity. you've got to be kidding me! there is a limited number of HD-DVD drives and discs ... and for one of the largest HD-DVD releases, you would think that this would have been properly tested ...


DesktopWeb FormText   loading ... web enabled updateMon, 29 Oct 2007 03:10:53 GMT # 

er, um ... i've been sitting for about 10 minutes waiting for an HD-DVD of Transformers to start playing. it says 'Loading. Web Enabled Update' and a 'Cancel' button. about to press the 'Cancel' button, because i'm not sure if its alive or what? a progress bar would be really helpful here to show me that something is actually happening :) 10+ minutes without an update is crazy.


DesktopWeb FormText   crazy football play :14 lateralsSun, 28 Oct 2007 14:22:06 GMT # 

i generally avoid living in the past, but here's an incredible football play. Trinity is where i wrapped up 12 years of fotball. D3 was great, the team was all smart non-atheltic scholarship student athletes that were there because they loved to play the game. congrats to TUF.


DesktopWeb FormText   e-ink readersSun, 21 Oct 2007 15:10:26 GMT # 

thinking about buying an e-ink reader. looking at mobileread forums, the iRex iLiad ($700) and Sony Portable Reader ($300) are the most popular. price-wise, the iRex is too much for me to even consider. feature-wise, the Sony reader doesnt support the CHM format. for CHM, you have to convert to PDF / other supported format first. honestly, i am so sick of converting video (and audio to a lesser extent) to acceptable formats, that the very thought of converting ebook formats almost makes me physically ill. actually, i'm really surprised the Sony reader doesnt support HTML at all. for formats, i really need a reader to support PDF, CHM, and HTML/MHT. 'MS Help' support would really be awesome. ... and whatever happened to LIT?

tried my UMPC as a reading device, but it hasn't taken hold. i'm still doing more reading on my older slate tablet pc. its actually time for me to refresh my tablet hardware, so that will probably become my next reading device and it will let me hold off until e-ink readers get more complete format support.


DesktopWeb FormText   advice mailSun, 21 Oct 2007 05:34:11 GMT # 

believe it or not ... i get the occasional mail asking for advice. really. i dont even believe it. hell, i just had to look up occasional to make sure it has two c's. then they find out that i suck at email and dont write back. not that i dont think its flattering that somebody would want my advice, because it is ... its just that i'm not good at replying. so i got a couple new emails asking for advice (spawned by /wpfAugReal), but i'm not (directly) replying to either of those [suck at email] instead, i'm replying to a 4 month old one i never replied to.

"what contributed most to what you are today?" what i learned from college was how to learn on my own. then i took the advanced degree programs to upskill as quickly as possible and get a more complete view of software engineering. the good thing about classes was paying for the classes forced me to go. now that i'm old and boring, i would never sit in a class again. give me a book or an SDK and some time. so the degrees were just a jumpstart and dont do anything for me now. after the degrees, i joined a consulting company and then went fully independent. that is because 1) i love to learn / solve problems / find out how something works 2) i hate to maintain code. that explains why i'm a consultant, swap MVP groups, and write articles in my spare time. other people like to make one really kick ass product that keeps evolving and they keep polishing it. i respect those people, i'm just not one of them. if i was an employee and kept working on the same product all the time ... it would suck the life right out of me. which brings up ...

"what do you suggest to start getting involved?" i stay motivated to learn the same way i stay motivated to lift ... by leeching off other peoples energy. my friends all like the latest and greatest technologies, that is what we talk about. and we subscribe to blogs of people that do the same. alot of my articles are motivated by something else i've seen on a blog, or talked about with my friends, or read about in a book. when something starts to get boring, i just look around for the next shiny tech / API / problem and start to kick it around. when i first started out, alot of the projects i kicked around failed, because i wasnt good at seeing hidden risks. but every once in a while something would come together, and that was enough to keep me going. now i've got enough experience to see alot of the potential pitfalls beforehand; which takes some of the fun out of it. so all of my articles are designed to introduce some manageable level of risk, and reduce the menial tasks. i.e. i've been wanting to do augmented reality for over a year. when i first looked at it, i knew a little DirectShow and was a beginner at Managed Direct3D. i could have pulled it off, but it would have taken a considerable amount of time. but over the last year i positioned myself to become competent with DirectShow and WPD 3D ... so the augmented reality piece was the only risk left (just over 2 weeks). when i lose motivation, i just wander. today i went to the bookstore and looked at the back covers for the acronyms i didnt know. also been brainstorming and just surfing the net aimlessly. if that doesnt work, then i'll take some time off until the itch comes back. eventually something will catch my eye, and i'll have to work on it.


DesktopWeb FormText   XDCP still closedSun, 21 Oct 2007 03:27:04 GMT # 

still waiting for the XDCP (Xbox.com Community Developer Program) to open up : "At this time, we are not actively accepting new applicants into the program". another choice quote "We have met our milestone of 50 developers and will be holding at this number pending future program feature development". er, um ... move it under live.com and open it up to the public. untl then, i guess we have to settle for this.


DesktopWeb FormText   halo 3Wed, 17 Oct 2007 04:32:51 GMT # 

never played halo 1. started playing halo 2 when i first got my 360, but stopped when i realized i wasnt getting any achievements. do remember that i had no clue what was going on in the story, and i kept getting lost in the levels because i wasnt sure where i needed to go for the next checkpoint. didnt really try multiplayer.

got caught up in the halo 3 buzz and went back to finish off my halo 2 saved game beforehand. plus i had to do some reading in the forums to figure out what was going on in the story. thought the halo 3 single player was excellent gameplay. it kept changing enough to keep things interesting : environments, weapons, enemies, vehicles. knowing the back story helped, and when i got 'lost' a marker would pop up to show me where to go. took me a little over 10 hrs to finish, which i consider perfect. (short gaming sessions have become my reward for finishing articles)

then i tried multiplayer. got killed quickly and received my first corpse hump from what sounded like a 10 year old that wouldnt shut up. i really did not like that. he had to be muted. would have preferred to kill him in the game ... but he was way better than me, so muting was my only option. damn. after that game, i played through 9 more on basic training. the rest of the games were alot of fun. i was never the best player, but i was never last either ... i felt like i could actually compete. oh, and nobody else corpose humped me ...

... until i got kicked out of basic training. it forced me into ranked and social matches. i'm compelled to play solo, because i dont want to be the weak link on any of the team matches. so i'm playing solo and getting my ass handed to me. last place or 2nd to last repeatedly. and 2nd to last happened when another guy that was kicking my ass exited the game early, forfeiting his rank. with the default settings, i kept landing in matches with level 3+ players, even though i was level 1. 2 levels doesnt seem like much, but it was huge. then i tweaked the search to prioritize my level. and the level 1-2 guys proceed to take my name. damn. i'm hoping that these are all halo 2 addicts that are just getting on board and leveling up to 50 by destroying my pride. the problem is i dont want to be their gimps along the way. couldnt Bungie have used their past gamertag and halo 2 stats to grandfather them in to higher levels to begin with? and where are all the crappy players? i'm assuming they are getting sick of dying too, and just stop playing, like me. and what about my 'recreation' categorization. wouldnt think that recreational players would corpse hump? i would like to play some more ... just send me back to 'basic training'. maybe i just need to wait for the return players to graduate? or maybe i just really suck and need to stick to single player games on easy.

was playing ranked-lone wolf matches, which is quite possibly the problem. will have to try social-rumble pit and see if that turns out any better ... once my pride heals a little


DesktopWeb FormText   MCML flavor on the PC desktop?Mon, 15 Oct 2007 15:59:18 GMT # 

the New Zune Windows client is not WPF based. what the hell were they thinking?

my only guess would be to make it easier to get the UI to MediaCenter and Xbox 360s ... but in that regard, MS should be pushing to get better WPF/Silverlight support into MediaCenter, Xbox 360, and MediaRoom. not pushing MCML to the desktop, outside of MCE. remember, you're not a real UI framework until Charles Petzold writes a book about you


DesktopWeb FormText   WMP11 library problemsSun, 14 Oct 2007 20:06:31 GMT # 

i have alot of digital media ... which is problematic for the Windows Media Player 11 library. on Vista, i've had it get corrupted 2 separate times, and have had to rebuild it. i've also had it get seriously out of sync (not sure how?) to where i had to manually delete the library and rebuild it from scratch. in Media Center, its Music implementation uses the library, so i wrote my own MCML app that is file and folder based. so when my WMP11 library is corrupt or out of sync, then i can just fire up my app and listen to music. but the best thing is my app is seriously more responsive on extenders.

now i'm having problems on the 360 and its UPnP tie to WMP11. took my 360 to the user group presentation about MCE dev to show how 3rd party apps can run on extenders. i've got it connected back up to my PC, but the 360s Video-Computer screen is showing directories that no longer exist. these are directories that were on mapped drives that are no longer mapped or even connected to the PC. made sure those directories were removed from the libraries monitored folders and applied changes ... no change. had the library update in the background ... no change. now i'm updating the library in the foreground ... its 3 hours in and just over 50%. this sucks. its gonna be another 3 hours before i can even test to see if it works. if it doesnt work, i think i'll have to manually blow away the library and rebuild from scratch ... again.

i know this isnt just a windows media player problem. my dad has an iPod and he's constantly having problems with his iTunes library.

what the 360 UPnP and MCE both need is a pivot that just shows 'files and folders' and bypasses the WMP11 library altogether. the pics below show the 'albums' pivot for both the 360 and MCE. please just add another pivot to each that says 'files and folders' ... that would be very helpful for users with large libraries.


DesktopWeb FormText   waiting for PC (MCE) chat pad driversSun, 14 Oct 2007 02:02:28 GMT # 

the 360 chad pad works great for text input on the 360 ... and it would make a great text input device for media center, which sorely needs better text input (i.e. a fly out soft keyboard like the 360s would help). the problem is the PC driver does not support the chat pad, even after the update a couple weeks ago [didn't MS say that all 360 accessories would be supported on the PC?]. if the PC driver would pass the chat pad key presses through XInput, then we could write an MCE background add-in (e.g. /mceXInput) to use the chat pad with MCE. this would make the MCEBrowser plugin alot more interesting to me.


DesktopWeb FormText   where is the Zune API?Thu, 11 Oct 2007 14:41:50 GMT # 

tried Zune v1 ... with the outcome being that i disliked it for the same reasons that i dislike iPods. i’ll try again when the v2s come out. as a consumer, if it doesn’t just show up as an external drive that allows me to drag media onto it to be played back ... i wont bite. i absolutely despise having to use syncing software. files and folders -aint- broke.

but as a developer, where is the API? for years, i asked for an API for portable media centers. those devices were actually running the compact framework; but they were closed! the Zune has buttons and WiFi. that’s all we need to write useful plugins. XNA lets me write code to run on the Xbox 360, now it’s the Zune’s turn to lift up the skirt and provide some sort of API. Compact Framework and HTML support would be a good start, and then adding Silverlight after that hits mobile devices. i want Ballmer jumping around on stage yelling 'developers, developers, developers' with a Zune in his hand. that’s why I (generally) choose MS and avoid Apple.


DesktopWeb FormText   MCE Dev presentation is postedThu, 11 Oct 2007 05:32:44 GMT # 

uploaded the powerpoint from the 'MCE Development' presentation tonight. it has links to the source code samples that were shown.


DesktopWeb FormText   now whatTue, 09 Oct 2007 00:36:37 GMT # 

whenever a contract starts to wrap up, i always evaluate my current technical skill set and try to figure out where to go next. i'm casually beginning that process now. some of these past choices have paid off ... many haven't. i'm pretty happy with my recent choices. WPF/WF/WCF were must learns. i feel comfortable in each, but they are so freakin huge i've still got alot more to pick up. over a year ago, i was torn if i should learn DirectShow or not ... now i'm really glad i picked it up. 3D is also turning out to be a good thing, and i need to start thinking about learning shaders. still waiting for Speech to really take off ... like always :)

there are also techs i've purposefully avoided. lately, i've been avoiding the web. Ajax just doesnt do it for me ... still waiting for the web to get an enema. Silverlight is interesting, so i've take an initial look, but it needs to get pushed to more MS platforms (mobile, 360, mediaRoom) before i invest more time.

for the future, my first step will be to move exclusively to VS 2008. LINQ will be a must learn as well. my database skills are entirely amateurish, but LINQ looks like something i might be able to live with. long term, i'm seriously thinking about improving my math skills to help with 3D, media processing, and AI.


DesktopWeb FormText   Madison .NET UG reminder (Media Center dev)Mon, 08 Oct 2007 20:37:41 GMT # 

i'm presenting this Wednesday. going to show a little Hosted HTML, XBAP, Background MCML, and UI MCML. going to bring in my Xbox 360 too, and try to show some Extender action.


DesktopWeb FormText   new article : /wpfAugReal (augmented reality)Wed, 03 Oct 2007 00:13:31 GMT # 

/wpfAugReal shows how to augment reality using an ARToolKitPlus wrapper, DirectShow, and WPF 3D. it recognizes printable markers (that look like 2D barcodes) in the real world and returns their location in respect to the camera. then the application uses WPF 3D to overlay virtual objects to make them appear that they are also in the real world. the virtual objects are positioned, scaled, and rotated based on the current camera position. this provides the basics to let you create your own Eye of Judgment augmented reality card game. source code is provided and there is a demo video.

aside, my current contract is coming to an end, so i'll start looking for interesting work sometime in november.


DesktopWeb FormText   v2 extendersTue, 02 Oct 2007 16:54:59 GMT # 

been waiting for v2 extender news to come out ... so i could plan what my next media setup would look like. my initial reaction is the price is a bit too high for the feature set. for the price of extenders, i might as well put a full MCE PC on each TV. then i wont be limited by codecs and will have less setup issues. i.e. not having to waste my time converting my media into extender-friendly formats will be worth the small upsell to put a PC on each TV. the pain of having more PCs to manage will still be less than screwing around with encoding.


DesktopWeb FormText   accessing Samsung Q1 (UMPC) camerasTue, 02 Oct 2007 14:04:23 GMT # 

my version of the Samsung Q1 has two cameras. a 1-megapixel camera on the back (for pics) and a .3 megapixel camera on the front (for vid conf). even though there are 2 cameras, only 1 camera shows up as a capture device in a DirectShow. that makes me think that there should be some config setting on the filter to switch between cameras. looking at the filters config window in GraphEdt shows no such setting.

anyway, i'm at a loss on whom i need to contact to be able to switch cameras programmatically? cant seem to find samsung developer support. and the only umpc dev resource is a low-traffic forum on origamiproject.com.


DesktopWeb FormText   step 9Thu, 27 Sep 2007 14:50:51 GMT # 

code complete and the article is partially written. busy weekend, though, so i wont be able to finish it off until early next week.


DesktopWeb FormText   2 hours lost recovering vista ...Wed, 26 Sep 2007 02:16:25 GMT # 

... not happy. if anybody can get me in the SP1 beta, it would be appreciated.


DesktopWeb FormText   presenting MCE dev at next Madision .NET UGTue, 25 Sep 2007 14:09:00 GMT # 

i'll be presenting Media Center Development at the next Madision (Wisconsin) .NET User Group meeting on October 10th. details here.


DesktopWeb FormText   step 8.1Mon, 24 Sep 2007 03:52:06 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   eigth stepMon, 24 Sep 2007 02:07:45 GMT # 

augmented reality. plan to have the article out later this week.


DesktopWeb FormText   seventh stepSun, 23 Sep 2007 21:58:48 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   sixth stepSun, 23 Sep 2007 05:26:42 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   fifth stepSun, 23 Sep 2007 04:02:13 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   fourth stepSat, 22 Sep 2007 04:48:53 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   third stepThu, 20 Sep 2007 16:42:42 GMT # 

Carl, our 3D expert at worked figured out what was going on. ends up i was doing too many transforms.


DesktopWeb FormText   step 2.5Thu, 20 Sep 2007 02:29:58 GMT # 

transforms are screwed up somehow ... but i think this is the last hurdle to get past before being mostly grunt code.


DesktopWeb FormText   second stepWed, 19 Sep 2007 04:51:46 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   first stepTue, 18 Sep 2007 02:06:04 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : no calvesSat, 15 Sep 2007 17:24:31 GMT # 

it has been a while since the last brawn post. bodyweight is around 240. the amazing thing is that we went on a week long cruise to alaska, and my weight didnt change, even though i was eating like a pig. think i pulled that off by hitting the ships gym everyday, taking the stairs all the time, and doing a ton of walking when exploring the ports. aside, i always have a smile on my face when working out on a rowing machine while on a ship :)

since we've been back i've been meaning to do another weight loss cycle, but haven't managed to get disciplined about that. my workouts have been mostly unmotivated. been working out half my life, so this happens from time to time. the good part is i keep going. not to sound like an old school GI Joe cartoon, but getting dressed and getting to the gym is half the battle. then i just see what happens. if i cant come up with the energy myself, then i'll leech off somebody else. e.g. if there's an older guy busting his ass, i'll think to myself 'i want to be working out that hard when i'm his age' ... then i'll get to work. if there's some young kid working hard, i'll think 'cant let that young pup get stronger than me' ... then i'll get to work. if some housewife is trying to get back into shape ... i'll think 'if she can get a workout in, then so can i' ... and i'll get to work. that's why home gyms don't work for me ... because of energy level.

have managed to workout my calves regularly. genetics really let me down in this department. this sucks, because i workout my legs trying to avoid the chicken legs stereotype. but my calves are somewhat comical when compared to my thighs or biceps. so i've been hitting my calves as often as i can. started out doing all seated exercises, but have been alternating between seated and standing for a while now. they are getting alot stronger (almost 2x as strong from when i started), more defined, but mass is still lacking. got to keep trying ...


DesktopWeb FormText   hanging up the remoteSat, 08 Sep 2007 03:10:19 GMT # 

i'm done kicking around the MCE SDK. time to move on to some other focus. wrote my first MCE article over 2 years ago (5/23/05). out of something like 25 articles since then, 14 have been MCE related. early on, there was tons of stuff to write about, because there weren't many publicly visible developers. now there's a small active dev community. for the future, i'd like to see the MCE SDK concentrate less on the UI piece, and start exposing more visibility into the users experience and content. e.g. MediaMetadata needs to be populated (always) and MediaState needs to be supported (not a sample). the UI was a problem early on, but now there are 3 options (Hosted HTML, XBAP, MCML). the thing that does still need to happen regarding UI is choosing a common technology to be used across MCE Extenders, MCE PCs, XBox 360s, and MediaRoom devices. developing for a 10 foot experience should be the same across devices. personally, i think that technology should be Silverlight. anyway, the biggest take away i got from developing for MCE is that it forced me to learn DirectShow. DirectShow lets you get as close as you can to the Media regardless if the media is FM, Live TV, Recorded TV, DVDs, streaming media, videos, etc... it all goes through DirectShow. this is where the DirectShow .NET project on SourceForge comes in ... it rocks! as a professional contractor, the MCE niche hasnt done much. i've had a couple hits about paid MCE work, but nothing ever came together. i've had more hits from DirectShow than from MCE. the most hits i get from anything remotely MCE related is XBAP.

/mceSapi - background add-in for controlling MCE with speech
/mceState - using the MediaState API
/mceSalt - speech controlled Hosted HTML pages
/backRow - using WPF to create a Front Row-like Media Center
/mceXInput - background add-in for controlling MCE with an XBox 360 controller
/mceDivX360 - original technique to stream DivX movies to an XBox 360 through MCE
/mceVideoSearch - embedded WinForm control hosted in MCE for searching videos
/mceWorldWind - running an external DirectShow app from MCE and controlling that app using the remote
/mceDirectShow - experimenting with how MCE uses DirectShow with TV/FM Tuners
/mobileRecord - mobile recording solution using MSN Messenger and WF
/mceZipPicWpf - XBAP app for viewing zipped image archives with MCE
/mceItvSilver - prototype for using Silverlight 1.1 within MCE to view Internet TV streams
/mceDvd360 - investigating methods for streaming DVDs to an XBox 360 using MCE
/umpcFrame - using a UMPC as a secondary display / virtual remote for MCE


DesktopWeb FormText   Silverlight isnt everywhereFri, 07 Sep 2007 03:14:34 GMT # 

Silverlight on PC ... of course. on Mac ... sure. on Linux ... whatever.

but when do we get Silverlight on Windows Mobile, XBox 360, Extenders v2, Media Center, MediaRoom?

WindowsMobile needs it to compete with the iPhone. the 360, Extenders v2, MCE, and MediaRoom need it to offer developers a common platform to develop a single 10 foot interface to run on all devices.


DesktopWeb FormText   accessing MCE guide dataThu, 06 Sep 2007 23:49:44 GMT # 

got a couple emails about how to get access to the MCE guide data. to simplify things i just cooked up the simplest app possible and its now linked in the source code section of /umpcFrame. generated a typed dataset to make it easier to move around the data. the odd thing is it takes a minute for the data to load when running in an external app, but when running within the context of MCE it takes less than 10 seconds.

this has recently become more important since the alternative has disappeared.


DesktopWeb FormText   new article : /umpcFrame (UMPC meets MCE)Thu, 06 Sep 2007 03:34:48 GMT # 

/umpcFrame is a prototype app for using a UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC) as a secondary-display / virtual-remote for MCE (Media Center Edition PC). its comprised of 2 parts : 1) a WPF app which runs on the UMPC. 2) a background add-in that runs in MCE. they communicate with each other using WCF over a local network (line of sight is not needed).

its not ready for public usage, but the source code is provided. there is also a video of the app being used.

i'd love to get feedback on how you would use a UMPC with MCE. and in general, what other apps do you want for a UMPC?


DesktopWeb FormText   /umpcFrame pic 11Mon, 03 Sep 2007 20:01:27 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   /umpcFrame pic10Mon, 03 Sep 2007 14:38:34 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   /umpcFrame pic9Sun, 02 Sep 2007 22:59:02 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   /umpcFrame pic8Sun, 02 Sep 2007 16:50:25 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   /umpcFrame pic7Sat, 01 Sep 2007 21:03:14 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   /umpcFrame pic6Sat, 01 Sep 2007 12:43:18 GMT # 

the soft keyboard still has a bug that i haven't figured out how to fix yet ...


DesktopWeb FormText   /umpcFrame pic5Fri, 31 Aug 2007 20:41:32 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   /umpcFrame pic4Fri, 31 Aug 2007 12:42:56 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   /umpcFrame pic3Fri, 31 Aug 2007 04:40:18 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   /umpcFrame pic2Thu, 30 Aug 2007 13:18:26 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   /umpcFrame pic1Wed, 29 Aug 2007 23:45:48 GMT # 



DesktopWeb FormText   BioShock = Atlas Shrugged + horror FPSTue, 21 Aug 2007 23:14:19 GMT # 

the reviews have been incredible, so i finally gave the demo a try ... and it rocks! my favorite part is the backstory is full on Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. it even provides a hat tip by naming the narrator Atlas. going to have to get the game for that reason alone to go with my 'who is john galt' t-shirt. wore that shirt a couple times out in public and only a handful of people recognized it. but one guy came up to me once and said 'hey, im john galt, whats with the shirt?'. i didnt believe him until he showed me his license, and he was the real deal. the problem is he wasnt even aware of the book, and based on his age, quite possibly his namesake ...


DesktopWeb FormText   wii on the big screenTue, 07 Aug 2007 22:52:09 GMT # 

on one of those cruise ships that has the wii projecting on a large screen. will post pics later.


DesktopWeb FormText   new article : /mceDvd360Fri, 03 Aug 2007 18:41:31 GMT # 

been kicking this one around off and on for a while now. been taking up too much time, so i'm pushing it out early to move on to some other projects. it is NOT ready for general use. anyway, it's a basic app for attempting to stream DVDs to the 360. it partially works, but i haven't figured out how to get the encoder to support all DVDs. it can fail with the audio being out of sync, or exceeding an audio buffer, or not able to decrypt the CSS. the article also discusses some other techniques that have been attempted. /mceDvd360


DesktopWeb FormText   UMPC connectivityFri, 03 Aug 2007 02:16:04 GMT # 

spent the time and pain to get the Moto Q synced to the UMPC, so the UMPC can use the Qs EVDO internet connection. first step was to sync with a USB cable. all i needed to do was download the latest Windows Mobile Device Center (WMDC), not to be confused with the Weapons of Mass Destruction Center (now i'm probably on a watch list and my phone is tapped). to create the connection i used PdaNet. could probably get it connected without PdaNet, but i've seen so many good reviews for PdaNet and remember beating my head against the wall trying to get connected in the past ... that i had to give it a shot. it worked great! was on YouTube within 5 minutes. the 3G over USB chewed up YouTube vids without any problems. was thinking that i might be fine with EDGE, but now that i've seen 3G on the UMPC, i'll definitely be sticking with 3G for the next phone.

next step was to get the connection over Bluetooth. was able to pair the devices no problem, but when i tried to sync over bluetooth, it said the service was not available. you're kidding me ... bluetooth still sucks? fumble around for another 30 minutes and a friend helps out too ... still not connected. google to the rescue and find a post with people having the same problem and explaining a registry change to be made on the UMPC. crap ... bluetooth does still suck! do the registry hack, restart, initiate sync from phone, fire up PdaNet, and it works. it seemed fine for browsing news/email, but it was definitely slower than the USB connect. e.g. YouTube vids would play for about 5 seconds and then have to rebuffer.

final step will be to try and initiate the connection from the PC, so that the phone can just be hidden away. my initial (intuitive) attempts have failed so far.

so bluetooth still sucks. i've always loved the concept of bluetooth, but the implementation still leaves much to be desired. hell, this should all be figured out by now such that PdaNet shouldn't even have to exist. but i'm still having the same pains that i've had with bluetooth devices for the last 5+ years? maybe Windows Mobile 6 and Vista SP1 will finally get it right ... i hope ... please ... serious.


DesktopWeb FormText   business cable round 4 (or 5)Wed, 01 Aug 2007 23:33:33 GMT # 

losing count. my connection has been real flaky lately. modem is pretty much offline whenever i wake up or come home from work. called in and was on hold for ... 1 second. even though my reliability has been sucking, their customer support kicks ass. called in enough times now that they've got an ongoing trouble ticket, and are keeping logs of info to try and debug where the actual problem is. but there are too many variables right now, since i just got the new router after the last hardware failure. i'm thinking the routers fine though, because i always have LAN access. and if i reset the router (and not the modem), then i still cant connect to the net.


DesktopWeb FormText   phone situation updateWed, 01 Aug 2007 03:13:55 GMT # 

still looking for a new phone. the phone i want is the HTC S710. with all those (beautifully functional) buttons, its basically the anti-iPhone. it's only drawback is lack of 3G (supposedly there will be an updated version with HSDPA). since the phone will become a slave to the UMPC, i'm thinking 3G is now a requirement. which brings up the Samsung BlackJack, which supports 3G and will be getting an update for WM6. but i still cant get it because GSM sucks in my area. AT&T hasn't rolled out 3G where i live and T-Mobile is mostly non-existent in WI.

that leaves CDMA. have had Verizon EVDO for over a year now. in that time, Sprint coverage has improved a ton and they now provide 3G in my area too. the problem is i dont like any of their phones. if i had to choose, i'd go with the Sprint Mogul. it's also an anti-iPhone because MS and Sprint are actually encouraging developers to get it through a special offer! the problem is i'd much rather have a Smartphone form factor.

so i'm stuck in a holding pattern until AT&T gets 3G in my area or the CDMA providers get some better WM6 phones.

for fun, i went and played with the local AT&T store. walked in and asked about HSDPA ... they had no clue what that was. said 3G ... and they responded that it wasnt available here yet. any idea when we'll get it ... no idea. pulled out the UMPC, showed them the sim card slot, and asked how i could get a plan for it. my version of the Q1 doesnt actually have a GSM modem, i just wanted to see if they had any clue ... and they didn't. they immediately went into the 'we only support phones sold in the US'. to which i responded that i bought the UMPC from BestBuy across the street. they didn't have a response for that. followed it up and asked if could get a data plan with just a sim card ... they said no. asked if i could get a phone with a plan and an extra sim card tied to that plan ... no. asked if i could buy a phone with sim card and plan, throw the phone away, and use the sim in the UMPC ... they said the data plan would only work on certified devices (which isnt true). hard to believe US wireless providers still suck this badly.


DesktopWeb FormText   samsung q1 ultra review 2Tue, 31 Jul 2007 13:49:10 GMT # 

still more comfortable with the thumbboard on my smartphone (Moto Q), but am getting used to the Q1s split keyboard. its easier at arms distance, because when its up close your eyes have more distance to travel from side to side searching for special keys. an unexpected surprise is the 'popup mouse' for touch screen use. it was intuitive to me that the you could click the left and right mouse buttons, but it wasnt intuitive that you could drag the mouse and the mouse cursor would follow. this makes it alot easier to be precise with a fat finger. also found that there are settings to better support touch. so the windows buttons and scroll bars are made larger and are significantly easier to operate with touch. i'm also getting used to the joystick modes and the mouse groups. the problem is i'm not getting used to the touch screen keyboard or dial keys. need to find a way to increase the size of both. only seen videos of the iPhone touch keyboard, but i think it looks more usable. finally, i've turned Aero back on, because it provides bigger targets. overall, i'm getting much more comfortable providing user input. and i am real happy with my choice of UMPCs, because this one basically forces me to get comfortable with touch screen interfaces.

there seem to be a # of inconsistencies though. 1) Aero is better for touch, but i'm assuming the increased graphics style is taking away from performance and/or battery life? 2) the Origami experience is great for touch ... but it doesnt run in portrait mode. wtf? 3) its got a mic array for speech reco, but the .8 ghz processor takes a beating when i've got the speech recognizer running. did find out that it supports SDHC, so i've got a class 6 card ordered for ReadyBoost, to see if that speeds things up a bit.

one annoyance is that i've already got an APC power pack, but it doesnt have a tip to fit the Samsung. i consider both at fault; APC needs to provide a tip, but Samsung should have stuck with a more standard power adapter size. also, why don't UMPCs have a Windows Live client like Windows Mobile devices? finally, the Tablet Education pack needs to have some of its programs migrated over to UMPC.

oh yeah, UMPC brings the sexy back (i'll have to beat myself up for typing that). taking my old Tablet out in public doesn't have any effect, but the UMPC is a definite attention getter. the general public has no idea what it is. just waiting for somebody to say 'it's like a big iPhone'.


DesktopWeb FormText   initial samsung q1 ultra reviewFri, 27 Jul 2007 01:29:51 GMT # 

which UMPC to get? marketing of these devices sucks. none of them are available in my local computer stores, alot of my techno friends arent even aware of them, and its not particularly easy to find trusted info about them. looking at the form factors for the upcoming models, i wanted something slate, and not convertible. so i was looking at the Samsung Q1 Ultra and the Everun. the HTC Shift also looked interesting. Samsung had the last-gen winner and it was available, so that was my pick.

the name should have been changed to Q2. it was difficult to find reviews for the newer model because search results would return the older reviews. and it was also difficult to trust retailer specs. i.e. had to get the specs for the different versions from a blog post. if i did find the specs on retailers with the same model #, chances were the specs would have conflicts ... that's crap. there were 2 versions available. i chose the more expensive of the 2 to get an SD card slot, 2 cameras, 20 more gigs, and VGA out. it's lacking a fingerprint reader and 802.11N, which would be nice to have ... but wouldn't motivate me to go for the upsell.

the initial setup was easy. the main problem is it created a 10 gig partition to create a restore point. it did this without even prompting me. fuck that! its only 55 usable gigs, and then it jacks 10 gigs ... Samsung needs to release a utility to reclaim that space without having to format. and the install script needs to be changed so a user will be prompted and have the choice to opt out. if i cant get PartitionMagic to reclaim that space, then i'm going to wipe it and start over. doesnt seem to be loaded with too much crap-ware, but the first thing i did was uninstall McAffee. got 45 megs of Vista updates, turned off Aero, and turned off UAC. these devices aren't the greatest for user input, so there's no way i'm going to tolerate UAC on it.

the screen looks great! it's also awesome that it has a mic array, although i'm skeptical that it has enough horsepower to keep Vista's speech reco running? this device definitely needs a tap-and-talk button for speech reco. the thumbboard is just barely usable. there are so many devices with good (and bad) thumbboards, i'm really surprised Samsung screwed this up. regardless, the split thumbboard concept is excellent, i hope their next model nails it. also, the power cord plugs into the side of the right half of the thumbboard ... exactly where your hand would go. they should move that, or at least provide a flush L-adapter to get it out of the way. the joystick and mouse buttons work ok, but might take me a bit of time to get use to. also dont like that the stylus is at the bottom, granted i dont want to have to use the stylus in the first place. it has touch sensitive buttons for volume controls and a setting menu up top, which are highly annoying because i keep hitting them on accident. those should be made into tactile buttons so i can avoid hitting them. battery life seems decent and they have an extended battery which sounds real good. i really like that it has a kick-stand, but i'm not sure its sturdy enough to survive my hardware curse.

an issue with mobile devices is always 'user input'. this device provides alot of options ... and they all have varying degrees of suck. i should start out saying that MS nailed active digitizer Tablet PCs with Vista ... it's excellent. the problem is these devices do not have active digitizers ... they are touch. touch screen devices need more UI changes before MS gets it right. first, as i said earlier, the thumbboard has the most potential and i cant believe they screwed it up. using the thumbboard in combination with touch and/or the joystick and mouse controls would be my preferred method of input for these devices. for that to really work, the next version would have to fix the keyboard and MS would have to make the OS more touch-friendly. second, the joystick and mouse combo is decent. i'm not very accurate with the joystick righ now though, so i'm hoping i get better with it. third option is the stylus. the stylus is ok, but i really miss having the active digitizer. also the resolution is high enough that it makes it a bit difficult to hit some of the buttons, scroll bars, etc... also holding a stylus doesnt let you easily switch to using the thumbboard or mouse controls. anyway, future versions need to get the thumbboard right ... or they need to get an active digitizer. fourth, is 'dial keys'. this is the soft thumbboard that pops up on the screen. no tactile response sucks and real buttons kick ass ... so i hate the dial keys.

the part that shines is the Origami Experience. it shows the real potential for the UMPC as a touch screen device. my hope is that MS would further extend Origami and Windows to better support touch screen usage. also that full Tablet devices would concentrate on active digitizer usage and UMPCs would concentrate on touch and ditch the stylus. maybe the iPhone popularity will help spur this on? oh yeah, why the hell does the Origami experience not run in portrait mode ... that needs to be fixed.

usage-wise, i really see UMPCs being useful in-car and living-room. i'll definitely be getting the GPS car dock when it comes out. for living-room use it will live on the coffee room table with the kick stand acting as glorified digital picture frame. cant wait to try it out as an e-book reader too ...


DesktopWeb FormText   samsung q1 ultra umpcThu, 26 Jul 2007 03:11:12 GMT # 

new toy!


DesktopWeb FormText   my money's no good thereMon, 23 Jul 2007 15:49:25 GMT # 

1) not a heavy drinker, but i tip bartenders. also like coffee ... and i used to tip them. its not that their service has gotten bad, but they just cant take my tip anymore. i.e. starbucks has a tip jar for cash, the problem is i dont carry cash. you would think that i could order my yuppy drink, and just say add a dollar tip, or get the credit confirmation and write in my own tip. but i havent been able to do this since companies have switched to the no signature required for amounts under $20. why cant they just add a tip?

2) the other problem i run into is online payment systems that require me to enter the credit card security ID to show that i have the card in my posession. the problem is the 3 to 4 digit code wasnt embossed on my card, and it wore off months ago ... plus i forgot the code (actually, i never memorized it). if i call my credit card company, they cant tell me the # ... and if i call my bank, they cant tell me the #. the only options are to request a replacement card or dont shop at online retailers that require the ID. the other option is to call the retailer and order over the phone, because you can tell them that you cant read the security ID ... and they'll place the order ... which sidesteps requiring it on the website in the first place.


DesktopWeb FormText   business cable round 2Sun, 22 Jul 2007 17:08:19 GMT # 

my router had an unrecoverable hardware failure 2 days ago. picked up a new one yesterday and got it reconfigured. it seemed to be running fine, but i started losing internet connectivity last night. not entirely sure what was going on, but at one point i could access the LAN but not the WAN, so i assumed the problem was the cable modem. but then i connected the server directly to the modem and it got WAN access just fine? thought it might have something to do with the new MAC address of the router, so i went ahead and called time warner tech support. once again ... i was connected immediately! still unexpected ... but i love it. the best part was the tech support guy did not immediately assume the router was at fault. he seriously suggested that it could be the modem too. that was awesome ... i'm so use to earthlink just blaming it on the router without even listening to the symptoms. so far it looks like the router is the problem ... which is odd, because i got the exact same router, although it has a newer firmware. another change is that i had it turned on for pure 802.11N, while i had it set for 802.11B/G/N previously. switched it back to legacy mode and am waiting to see if it dies again.

since i've been forced to work on the home network, i've been updating the drivers for everything, including the HDXB101 powerline ethernet adapters. been updating their firmware and my LAN transfer speeds have doubled ... kick ass! the only problem is i've got one adapter that wont connect to the local PC or to any remote adapters, and another adapter that seems to have a loose physical connection to the ethernet cable. going to have to call Netgear about swapping them out.


DesktopWeb FormText   technical difficultiesSat, 21 Jul 2007 04:04:35 GMT # 

router just died after 7 months. i've got this gift for destroying hardware


DesktopWeb FormText   WMV-HD + FairUse4WM = Xbox 360Fri, 20 Jul 2007 05:15:56 GMT # 

have a handful of WMV-HD discs. WMV-HD discs are HD movies at 720p or 1080p on a DVD-9/10. a full movies can fit just fine on the smaller discs; Blu-Ray and HD-DVD are somewhat overkill for extra content that i never watch. some of the discs (e.g. Terminator 2) are all DRM'd up. worked fine for me on XP, but i really want to watch it through the 360. put it in a 360 and the disk is recognized as 'mixed mode' and is not playable. crap ... its bad when MS isnt even supporting their own format. so i tried it on Vista, and it wont play in Media Player. have to install the InterActual player that comes on the DVD, and it still doesnt play. update the InterActual player, and it still doesnt play ... but it does manage to download the license. apply the latest FairUse4WM ... and now i can stream my WMV-HD videos on the 360. took forever ... but they look great!


DesktopWeb FormText   love/hate MCEFri, 20 Jul 2007 04:33:47 GMT # 

i'm going to stop developing for MCE ... out of principal. i've developed for a bunch of different platforms on a bunch of different APIs. seeing what a platform can do and experimenting with APIs is alot of fun for me. i absolutely love it. most of the time, the product groups have listened to my feedback, and have seemed to actually appreciate the feedback. even when i've used a platform to do something it was never intended to do.

that's not the case with Media Center. lately, all i get from MCE is push back. if i point out a bug or make an API suggestion, the answer is an immediate 'no'. this came to a head at the last MVP summit, and it has continued since then. the latest incarnation is here. my assumption is that this is their response to my anti-MCML stance. otherwise, it's totally nonsensical to me. a CRASH is a priority 1 bug. period. end of story. nor should the internet be ignored.

started developing with MCE in the first place because i'm all about pervasive computing. that started out in mobile, which transitioned into tablet. so the living room was the next logical progression ... and why i've been mucking around with a 360. i've actually been bogged down in MCE because there is so much potential there ... its a freakin PC! the MCE SDK doesnt really make it easy to access all (or any) of that potential, but its workable. my articles have pointed out numerous bugs ... those bugs still exist today. and now my feature requests dont even get humored. the sad thing is MCE needs ALOT of work. it's definitely one of the most painful platforms to develop for ... and there is no reason why it has to be. its ridiculously easier to write for a smartphone device with its small UI and limited resources ... that does't make sense.

so i'm going to finish up a couple more MCE apps that i've already started ... then i'm done with it. had a bunch of other apps/articles planned ... but i'm sick of the pain, sick of having to fight for bug fixes, sick of having to fight for basic features.


DesktopWeb FormText   new article : /mceItvSilverMon, 16 Jul 2007 05:30:17 GMT # 

/mceItvSilver is a very simple/rough app for playing Internet TV streams within MCE. the kicker is, it uses Silverlight 1.1 for its UI. it's just a proof of concept of Silverlight within MCE. well ... it runs and even renders through an extender session. it uses the MediaElement instead of PlayMedia, so the video is choppy and renders over remote desktop to the extender. anyway, i hope that Silverlight gets some support from the MCE team and that the Silverlight team recognizes the value of getting a runtime to the 360. my ultimate goal is that developers targeting the living room will be able to write a single Silverlight app that will work with MCE, extend to a 360, and ultimately to IPTV and MediaRoom's Online Spotlight. my other hope is that MCML loses favor, and that developers can write XAML to render on desktops, MCE, 360, windows mobile, etc... WPF/Everywhere!


DesktopWeb FormText   fragmented MS communitiesSun, 15 Jul 2007 14:32:37 GMT # 

pissed off right now ... waiting for Silverlight.net to send me my password. the funny/sad thing is, i didnt even know i had an account there. thought that i might ... so i tried to log in and it failed. tried to create an account, and it said i already existed. so i do have an account there. and now here i am recovering the password.

the problem is all the different MS dev communities have their own forums.

WPF, ClickOnce etc... one set of forums.
for XNA, a different forum.
GotSpeech.net ... yet another forum.
MCE MVPs ... diff forum.
Silverlight ... diff.
MCE dev ... MediaCenterSandbox.com

this is a huge pain in the ass. i've got a different login for most of these forums too ... you'd think they would be using my Live login ... they don't. the MS public NNTP newsgroups used to be so much easier to deal with.

furthermore, why are they wasting resources building portals all the time. if a group wants a community, they should be able to enter basic name, description, customize links/downloads, etc... and then quickly have a community site that works like all the others. then they could work on whatever technology they should be building, instead of building a portal.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : short straight barFri, 13 Jul 2007 04:10:16 GMT # 

my gym got a new bar today, which i've never seen before. it's a shorter olympic straight bar, 5 foot (35 lbs) instead of 7 (45 lbs). was making fun of it, but then i went ahead and tried it for straight bar curls. have to say that is was much more comfortable than using a 7 foot bar. was able to concentrate more on the exercise and less on stabilizing the bar. it would be great for upright rows too, the only problem is that it doesnt have gnurling in the middle, so it'd be hard to grip. come to think of it, i have no clue why straight bars aren't entirely gnurled, and just have some small grooves to align your grip. i'm constantly having to adjust my grip to try and get at least a couple fingers on the gnurling ... but i've never adjusted my grip to get fingers on the smooth part. serious, what the hell is the smooth part for?

this is the first piece of equipment that my gym has purchased that is actually useful. thier first mistake was to replace the grooved pads on the hyperextension bench ... without the groove, it's not man friendly. their other mistake was to buy a set of kettle bells. we've had them for 7 months now, and i've only seem people pick them up questioningly or do some old-school hairy-russion strong-man pose. haven't seen a single person actually use them in a lift.

keep asking for new equipment, but they ignore me. my last suggestion was to get the 130, 140, and 150 lb dumbbells. i can always dream :)


DesktopWeb FormText   business cable round 2Wed, 11 Jul 2007 15:17:31 GMT # 

cable was out again yesterday morning. went ahead and tried the obligatory unplug the modem for 60 seconds, and then see if it connects ... i didn't really wait 60 seconds :) still broken, but i heard some voices outside. looked outside and saw a big service truck across the street, facing my house, with the radio on. could not see a service person anywhere, nor could i see any branding on the truck. so i immediately assumed that the vehicle was a Transformer, and that it was going to transform into a giant robot and bust into the house to steal my code. serious ... that's what flashed into my mind for about a second.

then i called Time Warners support line ... and they picked up ... no waiting! this is the 2nd time i've had to call business support ... and i'm absolutely amazed by the service. they weren't aware of any service trucks in the area, but they could tell there were issues, so they were going to send a truck out. left for work and drove past the Decepticon service truck to see that it was a Time Warner Cable truck. don't know why the support person didn't know the truck was there ... i'm assuming they have GPS on the trucks for fleet management? also caught a glimpse of the service guy that was messing everything up ... Decepticons don't hang out with people, so it must have been an Autobot. but then i realized since Time Warner wasn't aware of the truck, it was probably an AT&T terrorist operative that goes out in mis-marked vehicles to disrupt Time Warner service, then removes the magnetic Time Warner branding on the truck to reveal AT&T beneath, and finally proceed to stuff U-verse marketing in people's mailboxes. sounds like a fun job.

they ended up fixing whatever the problem was, but the cable modem needed to have power cycled before it would reconnect ... so my server was offline all day until i could get back from work. the last time my modem went offline, the power had to be cycled as well. that is absolutely ridiculous. hopefully the FIOS cable modems suck less. if it really bothered me when the server was offline, i'd throw together something like this : Automatic cable modem power cycling


DesktopWeb FormText   video format hellTue, 10 Jul 2007 05:17:49 GMT # 

Erik Anderson posted a couple weeks back about a prototype extender device playing DivX. supposedly the next wave of extenders come out this holiday, and at least one of those should have better codec support. i'm also hoping that competition might compel MS to get more codecs on the 360. but all we know so far (360 owners) is that we will be getting some level of MP4 support through MCE.

i've given up on on-the-fly transcoding. tried a handful of different transcoders, and too many things can go wrong : audio out of synch, might quit mid-show and then you cant skip back to that stop, limited random access, lower quality, etc...

instead, i've been re-encoding everything to supported (or soon-to-be supported) formats. for help with re-encoding, visit VideoHelp.com. still, with all the different containers and formats ... this has been a pain.

AVI/DIVX/XVID - not converting. been ripping my DVD collection for years, so i'll purchase whichever pika extender ends up supporting it. but i'm really hoping the 360 will get a fall update to support it ... to compete with the new extenders that'll be coming out.

MPG/MPEG - supported through MCE, although i'm using Nero Recode to convert large MPEG-2 files to smaller MP4 files.

WMV - already supported, although i have some WMV files that wont play. will probably 'fix' them by transcoding to MP4.

HD - using windows media encoder and Nero Recode to convert HD content to WMV-HD or MP4.

MP4/M4V - my new favorite format. had to use a program called YAMB to fix the container for a # of MP4 files to get them to play on the 360.

DVD - using Nero Recode to backup DVDs to MP4 now.

MOV/QT - purchased Quicktime Pro to rewrap some MOV files with an MP4 wrapper (without transcoding). also used it to export MOV files to MP4 (with transcoding).

OGM - used a great program called SUPER (recently updated) to batch process some of the files. it failed an one set, so i wrote a simple converter app with DirectShow to transcode to MP4.

RM/RMVB - used SUPER and my own program to transcode to MP4.

MKV - the audio got out of sync on the programs i tried, but my converter worked. my program still fails on some of these.

FLV - the quality on these are generally low, so i deleted them.

VOB/TS - used Nero Recode to transcode to MP4.

NSV - didnt want to install WinAmp, so i deleted them.

IVR - a new format from Real ... delete.

that'll leave me with AVI,MPG,MP4,WMV ... and i'll have gotten rid of MOV/OGM/MKV/RM/FLV/NSV/IVR. so this was a big pain in the butt, because there wasnt one tool that could handle it all. ultimately you want a tool that can convert between all formats, auto select the correct FPS and bit rate, batch processing, estimate what the size of the output will be, and provide progress info.


DesktopWeb FormText   hardware transcoding for 360Sat, 07 Jul 2007 20:16:19 GMT # 

an issue that i've got with all the on-the-fly transcoders for the 360 is their CPU demand. even with the fastest computer, it becomes an issue if you have multiple 360s and would like to transcode multiple files at the same time. so what i want is hardware encoding to take some pressure off the CPU.

the first thing i looked at was getting access to the MPEG-2 hardware encoders that are on all MCE TV tuners. the problem is i dont see how to get access to these other than through the external analog inputs. plus MCE doesn't play nice when it comes to sharing tuners. i'm assuming the next-gen MCE tuners will be MPEG-4, now if they would just give us access to the hardware encoders over USB. the 360 supports (some) MP4 now, and it will end up supporting it through extended MCE sessions in the future. the concept is if a user had an available tuner, then an app like Transcode 360 could use that to do on-the-fly hardware transcoding and offload some CPU load. alot of 3rd party apps could take advantage of hardware encoding ... Tversity, Orb, etc...

speaking of MP4, there is a cheap (~$70) MP4 hardware encoder available now : AdsTech InstantVideo ToGo. i've played around with this the last couple days, and it shows potential. right now its targeted at standard-def (4:3) formats for portable devices, nor is there developer support (there support site really sucks), and it doesn't run on Vista yet (you've got to be kidding me). i tried 'hacking' some of its .ini files, and was not able to get it to encode anything higher than 640x480, nor could i change it to a widescreen aspect ratio. but it does encode real-time, the quality stays relatively high, and it takes pressure off the CPU ... plus it has DirectShow filters! for hardware encoding, there is an 'Instant Video To-Go' DirectShow filter. i tried connecting this in a graph, but was not successful. their app also reads a registry 'HKLM\SOFTWARE\ArcSoft\TrackLog\LogLevel', but i couldn't guess what value to put there to get any debug info ... which might help reverse engineer what their filter graph looks like.

so i'd like to see AdsTech come out with an updated version targeted at living room devices like the Xbox 360, PS3, and Apple TV. it should support widescreen formats, at least 720x480 for transcoding widescreen DVDs. but i'd really love for it to support at least 720p HD. plus, they could stand to drop some hints on how to use their DirectShow filter to work with existing Transcoding apps, get Vista support, and work on their support site. or if MCE would open up their hardware tuners for transcoding apps ... that'd be even better. or if the 360 would support the most popular codecs ... even better.


DesktopWeb FormText   /tskTsk is fixedFri, 06 Jul 2007 05:56:17 GMT # 

/tskTsk and /spHme are working again. surprised how many emails i've gotten about them being broken.


DesktopWeb FormText   work : Edgenet Vision XBAP applicationThu, 05 Jul 2007 20:02:01 GMT # 

believe it or not ... this post has to do with work (capital W). come to think of it ... i don't think i've ever blogged about something i've worked on professionally.

anyway, i've been part of a great team (primarily 3 developers) that has been creating an XBAP application. it's a 3D room/product visualization application, which we call Edgenet Vision. it uses WPF 3D for rendering and runs with partial-trust, so it can be served from the web. the pic below shows it displaying a kitchen. it has some other pre-baked kitchens and bathrooms. a user can customize the room by swapping appliances, countertops, wall color, flooring, etc...

a direct link to the XBAP is here. NOTE that IE6+ and .NET 3.0 are required.

finally, Edgenet is looking for talent. offices in Waukesha WI, Nashville TN, and Atlanta GA.



DesktopWeb FormText   DVD transcoding to 360Thu, 05 Jul 2007 15:35:34 GMT # 

had been kicking around Transcoding DVDs on the fly to stream to the 360; something that would work with physical DVD media in a changer, DVD rips, ISOs, etc... and there are 2 options :

1) use a transcoding app like mencoder which uses the library 'libdvdcss'. libdvdcss strips the CSS and mencoder rips out the MPEG-2 stream from the DVD on the fly. this is really fast and not too CPU intensive. e.g. its something like 15 to 25 minutes (per DVD) for the tests i ran. so this isnt really transcoding at all, because the 360 can play MPEG-2 through MCE. so you could provide a UI using XBAP or MCML to the 360, which would load the DVD from a changer/ISO/rip and then process it in this manner. for scene selection it could provide some UI upfront to let the user get to extra content, commentary, etc... Transcode360 uses mencoder, and with MyMovies integration, they might already have this feature?

2) use the DVDNavigator filter in DirectShow. i made a proof of concept for this about a month ago, but the quality wasnt good enough to release. the process is to use XBAP/MCML to provide a UI for the 360. it intercepts the remote control button presses and plays a DVD on the MCE machine. a legal MPEG-2 decoder will decode the audio and video to a raw format, and then you can transcode that on the fly into WMV or another format that the 360 supports (without CSS). because a fast computer is now fast enough to decode and then reencode on the fly. with this option you can provide full menu support, scene selection, commentary audio, etc... i think WebGuide4 uses this technique for its new stream DVD to 360 feature? my proof of concept app definitely worked for me, but my MCE PC is about 3 years old and could not transcode at a high enough quality.

that's 2 techniques to get DVD libraries to a 360. should work with DVD changers, ISOs, rips. both techniques can support menus, extra items, commentary, etc... its not really necessary to use the DVD interactive menu either, the apps UI could just pull out the scene, audio, extra info and display in its own format. the mencoder\libcss technique is great, since it doesnt transcode ... but legally, i wouldnt touch it because i live in the US. transcoding on the fly should be fine, but i'm just not happy with how CPU intensive it is, more on that later ...


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : higher rep resultsWed, 04 Jul 2007 23:32:59 GMT # 

spent the last 3 months experimenting with my workouts, with the main change being to switch from 5 to 12 reps per set (and lowering the weight). since then, i spent 2 weeks back at 5 reps and high weight, just to mix things up. as expected, the strength for my core lifts has dropped. bench was probably 400lbs, and now its probably 360. leg press weight is down too. granted, both seem to be coming back rapidly. but the unexpected thing is my secondary lifts are stronger than ever. previously, i was close to the bottom of the weight stacks for most of the machines, but now i'm stacking almost all of them out. i'm not sure why? one guess is that doing 12 reps fatigued the core muscle and made the secondary muscles work more. i'm guessing that because i had horrible lactic acid build up moving from 5 to 12 reps. my body knows how to recover from 5 reps, but it did crappy trying to recover after 12. some of those sets really kicked my butt. but then i would like and see that it was only about half the weight stack, and that'd make me feel like a puss. a difference of 7 reps doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but its huge. another unexpected benefit is that my workout energy level has increased. training for the endurance of 12 reps really lets me focus intense energy on those 5 rep sets. so now i'm going to start mixing the workouts and alternating between 5 rep and 12 rep days.


DesktopWeb FormText   vista blue screensWed, 04 Jul 2007 12:25:56 GMT # 

been blue-screening my Vista notebook like mad. i haven't had it this bad since pre-XP-SP1. the likely culprit seemed to be video codecs, because that's what i'm messing around with ... i'll probably bitch about that later. anyway, i'm crashing at least once a day, so my new codec regimen is to delete all of them, and only install the ones i need for a given operation. ouch! playing with codecs is a great way to crash Vista MCE too. double ouch! anyway, that was the idea, but i'm still crashing daily ... so i'm not sure what the problem is? the messed up thing is my Vista machine was more stable on pre-release drivers. i've had more issues since the released drivers for my vista premium capable computer came out.

don't know when, but someday i'm going to expect my computer not to blue screen ... ever. kill the offending program(s) whatever, but dont lose the whole OS.


DesktopWeb FormText   where's the MCML article?Mon, 02 Jul 2007 16:28:53 GMT # 

got an email this morning saying thanks for one of the MCE-related articles i'd written ... mainly for providing the code. anyway, they ended with a question, 'You've written articles for most of the MCE APIs, but where is the MCML article?'

here's the kicker ... i did write an MCML app and started the article (my custom music player), but i refuse to release it. during the process of writing the code, i got so freakin frustrated that i decided not to promote it in any form whatsoever. the problem is that i learned WPF and ASP.NET first. those technologies follow a very similar pattern and just intuitively make sense to me. so i started out looking at MCML with that background, and it immediately stopped me dead in the tracks. so i ignored my intuition and previous experience, and started over from scratch ... and with alot of pain, and what i consider back-assward logic, was able to put a simple app together. use it every couple days, and it works great. but all my apps since then have been XBAP ... because it (WPF) makes sense to me. the apps aren't as pretty, but they're much quicker and easier to develop. this allows me to rely on the UI framework to work as expected, and then i can concentrate on MCE's media-related shortcomings. which is also what i think the MCE team should be doing.


DesktopWeb FormText   custom MCEMon, 02 Jul 2007 02:40:22 GMT # 

Vista Media Center hasn't been doing it for me lately. i now use it solely as to host my own applications either because Vista MCE crashes or lacks features.

pictures - wrote my own picture app to handle zip files. the reason i did this is because i dont want to store thousands of loose images on a file server. instead, i store pictures within zips, and my app cracks open that zip and behaves exactly like it was served from the file system. not to mention it takes forever for individual files to copy to a server. another tweak i did is to determine screen width and display 2 pictures at once if the next 2 pics are vertical. it works on an extender too.

audio - wrote this app because music playback over extender sessions was broken. i would select Music and then Play All, but at some point it would hit a track it didnt like, stop playback, and popup a dialog. the point of hitting Play All was that i didnt want the music to stop ... because i was on a treadmill. another reason is that my WMP11 library got corrupted a couple times. and their random function is not that random, it only seems to jump randomly around the currently playing song, instead of across the entire lib. so my app is file and folder based ... no library to corrupt, and its quick to load and browse. if playback fails, it just moves on to the next song. plus the random function is across the entire folder structure. it works on an extender.

video - wrote this app because MCE would crash trying to generate thumbnails for some videos. no clue why they can't catch that exception? also, MCE does not show certain video formats, even though it will play them with the proper codecs installed. so my app attempts to generate thumbnails, and if it exceptions, it swallows it and a thumb is not displayed. in an extender session, thumbs aren't created at all, for speed. it displays all video files when its not in an extender session (e.g. it will show and play .flv files with the proper coded), and in an extender session it only displays those that will playback successfully. instead of trying to play them and seeing 'cannot play video'.

dvd - kicked around a custom DVD playback app to stream ISOs, DVD MediaChangers, Rips to the 360. got a proof of concept app working, including menu support, but i never finished it off. might revisit this.

tv - not a big TV watcher, but i've been paying attention to IPTV. IPTV will interest me when it becomes interactive, but right now i just want it to drive faster broadband to homes and get the telcos to compete with cable. as far as TV itself, IPTV seems to be too much like the old model. the future of TV that i see is streaming internet TV (e.g. channelking.com). where joe blow can setup their own streaming server, and they've got a TV channel. some sort of RSS list would be used to publish their lineup. the other model that is interesting is TvTonic, a great MCE plugin. for the streaming side i wrote a simple app to grap the MMS streams available and just made a UI for MCE. now i've got tons of streaming video channels in MCE. the quality is low (320x340), but it's a quick jump to bump that up to DVD quality, and there are a handful broadcasting 1280x720 HD today. probably wont do it, but PVR functionality can easily be added to record streams as well. this should work on an extender, but the 360 has issues with buffering that will hopefully get fixed soon.

anyway ... i'm pretty tired of having to write my own apps for MCE. something needs to change.


DesktopWeb FormText   Adventure Time!Sun, 01 Jul 2007 16:37:32 GMT # 

this was on wired.com about a month back. it's a pilot for a cartoon called Adventure Time. i'm assuming alot of people won't like it ... but i love it. it's algebraic! really hope somebody picks it up

like my entertainment to be random and as far from reality as possible ...


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : new supplementsSat, 30 Jun 2007 17:00:33 GMT # 

ok, here are some new supplements that i have to point out :

Universal Torrent. it's called Torrent ... how cool is that! based on past experience, Universal protein is probably the worst tasting stuff in the world. but i gave this stuff a try, based on its name, and its ok. i'm using it as my post workout drink because it has amino acids and creatine. it's also doing something with whey protein ... but i'm skeptical.

NaNO Vapor ... this stuff scares me, so i'm not taking it ... yet. but you've got to read the Warnings :

"Due to the extreme reactivity of the naNO Vapor formula, made sure the container is stabilized for at least 10 to 15 seconds before opening the lid. Otherwise, nanoparticulated particles invisible to the naked eye may escape the confines of the container. Do not leave the container open for more than 30 seconds. Due to the unbridled power of naNO Vapor, make absolutely certain that you have read the entire label before using naNO Vapor."

... with a warning like that, it's got to work! anybody else read that and think about Michael Crichton's book Prey?


DesktopWeb FormText   ready for a new phone ... not the iPhoneSat, 30 Jun 2007 16:51:50 GMT # 

i'm an early adopter of phones. my 1 year contract on the MotoQ just expired ... and i'm ready to upgrade. i'm actually fine with the hardware ... what i really want is Windows Mobile 6. the problem is WM providers do a crappy job of upgrading phone software. this really needs to change. the providers keep saying 'blah blah blah certification blah blah' ... bullshit. abstract the parts that need to be certified and let me upgrade the rest. hell, i'm even ok with them charging some fee for an OS upgrade. just dont push new hardware down my throat when nothing about the network has changed, especially with CDMA providers that lock me to a phone because of the lack of a SIM card.

now for the next rant ... where the hell are the WM6 phones? i'm pretty sure i was hearing about WM6 long before iPhone ... so where are they? you'd think that the non-AT&T providers would want to combat the iPhone and get some other options on the shelves ... i've actually already seen the next phone i want. a friend at worked got it unlocked overseas. no clue when it will show up, if ever, in the US? why is that?

finally, i dont want an iPhone. first, there is no way i could justify that price for its feature set. second, its half-ass attempt at providing developer support. this is where WM6 really wins me over with the Compact Framework ... it kicks ass. this is the same reason i won't buy a Zune ... that, and many other reasons that make it suck. third, form factor. the big screen is beautiful, but i really want tactile buttons for 'one handed while driving'. i'll give up the screen for buttons ... at least untl speech reco gets better on small devices.


DesktopWeb FormText   new article : /bj2bot for Bejeweled 2 on the Xbox 360Tue, 05 Jun 2007 13:59:32 GMT # 

/bj2bot is a bot that runs on a computer and plays Bejeweled 2 on an Xbox 360 to earn achievements. it uses basic image processing to 'see' the game board and simple logic to 'decide' which move to make. its aggressiveness and strategy can be changed depending on which game mode is being played. for performing moves, it started out using a keyboard wedge and Xbox 360 keyboard adapter; but it ultimately ended up using a modified controller for speed and reliability. it earned all the achievements for Bejeweled 2, the most difficult Xbox Live Arcade title for gamer points, although a known bug in the game kept it from actually getting the final achievement.

the article links to videos showing it playing different game modes, images of the bot application, and the full source code is provided. the video below shows it playing 'Hyper' mode, which is a timed mode, so it plays more aggressively and its strategy is to perform moves which will do the most damage.


DesktopWeb FormText   MCE and/or XBox 360 and/or ...Sun, 03 Jun 2007 19:03:21 GMT # 

the MS living room strategy seems to be throw it all against a wall and see what sticks. right now the competing/cooperating players are the 360 and MCE. which can be used in 3 different ways :

MCE stand alone - MCE actually works really well when connected directly to a TV. full codec support, UI is responsive, easy to setup, etc... that would be great if i only had one TV. for multiple TVs, i'm not particularly interested in putting an MCE PC on each TV. plus you need some network storage that they can all get to. so there is some cost involved, but i really just want to avoid having more PCs to maintain. technology is supposed to make my life simpler ... right? MCE has some dev APIs which allow for custom apps, the problem is its painful to develop with. debugging is a chore, and they are wasting time developing their own UI markup language. they really need to work on making development easier (i.e. less painful), as well as providing access to more powerful APIs.

XBox 360 stand alone - the 360 has fairly decent media support. pictures, music, limited video codecs. the HD-DVD add-on is nice and the Video Marketplace is excellent. can stream from WMP11 and UPnP AV MediaServers, as well as playback from DVDs and portable devices. plus it will get IPTV in the future. they really need to add more video codecs ASAP. could also stand to get a browser, especially after the keyboard accessory comes out. for development, XNA lets you write games, but does not provide network or media access. the other option to get media to the 360 is to write a UPnP AV Media Server, but that severely limits the UI. plus the 360 can only bind to a single UPnP Media Server at a time.

XBox 360 as MCE extender - this involves having a Media Center PC available on your network, which can be driven by an XBox 360 connected to your PC. this gets more media functionality to the 360 : DVR, more video codecs, 3rd party apps with UI. this helps, but is still altogether frustrating. DVDs do not stream, so changer owners are SOL. DivX/XviD/MP4 is not supported. the UI is not particularly responsive when remoted, so i'm constantly pressing the remote, thinking the infrared missed, pressing the remote again, and then having it move twice a second later ... i hate that. finally, 3rd party apps have more limitations when running in an extender session.

i've tried all 3 setups above ... and none of them fit all my media needs. to get most of the features i want, i'd have to put a 360 and an MCE PC on each TV, which isnt exactly practical.

for the future, i want a different model. basically, i want the Media Center Server concept to happen. i'm hoping Windows Home Server will evolve into that. a single WHS connected to my router, with a 360 on each TV. WHS would be the headless device for handling storage and running certain 3rd party applications. the 360 also needs to open up XNA to get access to the net and media for locally running 3rd party apps. but XNA isnt the best technology for developing traditional app UIs, so i'd like to see the 360 support Silverlight for more traditional app dev. for long running apps that couldnt run while the 360 is being used for gaming, these could be offloaded to run on WHS. anyway, something needs to change if MS wants to own the living room


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : spring weight lossSun, 03 Jun 2007 17:02:40 GMT # 

the last 4-5 weeks have been mostly cardio. been doing 2-a-day cardio workouts, with each workout lasting 20 to 60 minutes. along with a reduced calorie diet. weight dropped from 250 to 235. did minimal weights during this time, so strength and size has dropped. e.g. only managed 315 for 4 reps on bench this morning, and arms are down to 17.5.

with the increased cardio, along with my bodyweight, my feet really started to bother me. ended up going to a running store that provided a biomechanic evaluation ($50). this involved videotaping me walking on a treadmill barefoot and in shoes, so they could determine which shoes might work best for me. the best part is they let me try a # of different shoes while jogging on the treadmill. that was key! walking around the store, there wasnt much difference between the shoes, but there was a noticeable difference when jogging. they videotaped this too, and the interesting part is the trainer could tell if a shoe was good/bad before i told him my own opinion. couple weeks with the new shoes and my feet are definitely feeling better. still not 100%, but its not hurting so bad to keep me away from cardio. so i highly recommend going to a shoe store which will let you try the shoes on a treadmill.

now i'll be switching things up again. first couple weeks will concentrate on strength with sets of 5 to 8 reps. then i'll start alternating each workout between strength (5-8 reps) and size (10-12) reps. going to slightly increase calories by adding more protein as well as a little more fats. but instead of trying to increase weight (like in winter time), the goal will be to only slightly increase bodyweight by replacing fat with muscle. still plan on keeping the cardio workouts up by doing 2-a-days on non lifting days, and once on lift days.


DesktopWeb FormText   drunk (aka surface) computingFri, 01 Jun 2007 15:19:28 GMT # 

probably unexpected, but i'm not currently interested. more specifically, i'm not really interested in the target domains for table computing. more generic, i am excited about later versions of surface computing. its very novel and minority report'ish, but for end usage, i don't really care. targeting bars, restaurants, hotels, and retail. bars ... if i was single, then i'm checking out chicks, could care less about the table ... unless it helped me meet chicks. and there's this little thing called alcohol to keep people entertained. bars and restaurants (not single) ... i would get in so much trouble from the chick for playing with the table. hotels ... where's my room, because i've got my own notebook. retail ... there's this little thing called the internet, which allows me to avoid retail as much as possible. where could this be in my home? coffee table. in general, i dont want to be actively hunched over a coffee table, i'd rather be reclining back with a UMPC. not to mention the remote control interface of the 360/MCE, and what about speech? now if i had kids, i could definitely see using this as a teaching device. could also see this useful in the kitchen. but most of my collaboration experiences in front of a computer have been at work. i generally do not collaborate with people in front of a computer anywhere except work. maybe thats why its called a personal computer?

ignoring usage, what about the core technologies : multi-touch is mostly interesting in multi-user scenarios, otherwise as an individual user i care more about multimodal. people are hot for multi-touch on a small iPhone screen ... try that while driving. for mobile devices, i've moved away from stylus touch with the PPC (two hands), to less-touch with Smartphones (one-hand) and find it works much better for one-handed-while-driving scenarios. but in general, i want no-touch (not deployment). MS should be working more on speech interfaces to get to no-touch, not adding more touch; which is such a small step from pen based computing gestures. so surface computing could project the screen wherever i need it, which is where speech breaks down, because speech is not good at 'audibly rendering' large amounts of data for a user to browse. plus speech is slow. but i dont want to be 'tethered' to a table for visual display. multi-user is interesting, but not in the settings they are targeting. especially since the internet has virtualized everything, i'm more likely to collaborate with somebody on separate devices. object recognition is great, but wont become that useful until tons of objects can be recognized ... not anytime soon. and having to set it on the table is weak. this becomes interesting when the cameras/rfid are picking out objects in the real world, that might not even be visible.

surface computing becomes interesting to me when smart projectors are saturated in the environment to provide a display anywhere. along with mic arrays and cameras for eye-tracking, biometric authentication, user input, etc... aka pervasive computing. that said, i brainstormed a number of table computing apps that i'd consider writing. the problem is i dont see this being pervasive enough in the near future for me to be able to write any of those apps :(


DesktopWeb FormText   first biz cable failureWed, 30 May 2007 03:38:30 GMT # 

had business cable for 2 to 3 weeks now. its been pretty solid. a couple times it has lost connectivity for a moment, but then it recovered on its own ... until just now. lost connection for 10 minutes. called the tech support, and was connected instantly ... that was an unexpected and entirely pleasant surprise! another difference is i had an actual error message on my router. the previous router would lock up, and the only log messages would involve me restarting it ... but nothing about why it failed. ends up my router tried to do re-authenticate back to their system, but it dropped some packets at that time, and could not authenticate. so then the only way to get it to re-authenticate is to restart it. er, um ... that sucks. why cant it try again in 5 minutes on its own? that would seem more like business service to me. otherwise it might die while i'm on vacation or something, and the site would just be down. back to the drawing board on that one. anyway, the guy assured me this was rare, and that he hardly ever sees it. except this is exactly what was happening with my previous service. the router would fall off, and as soon as i restarted it, it would start working again. really hope this is a fluke ... or if it happens again, they take the time to figure out what the real problem is.


DesktopWeb FormText   yeaSat, 26 May 2007 20:46:49 GMT # 

just completed the functionality for the next article. started the thing something like 2 months ago. finished most of the code after a month, but got stuck because of hardware problems. so it sat while Travis cooked up some custom hardware, which he got to me yesterday. dont see anyway i could have got it working without Travis's hardware. little tweaking of the code ... and now its done! actually, it was more like, tweak the code, introduce a subtle bug, spend half a day looking for that bug, fix the bug ... and then it all works :) the problem was i typed Math.Max instead of Math.Min. know i meant to type Math.Min, because the freakin variable even had 'min' in its name. now i just need to put the article together. anyway, i'm happy this'll finally be finished.


DesktopWeb FormText   digital format warFri, 25 May 2007 02:42:41 GMT # 

need to rant. this ones about how messed up my current video setup is. physically, i've got a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device to my router, where all the vids are stored. connected to the router is a Media Center (MCE) machine. and the TVs have XBox 360s setup on them. no problems there ...

but now i want to actually watch a vid on a TV. the options are to use the XBox 360 video functionality using UPnP (e.g. Windows Media Connect through WMP11), or to use MCE in an extender session. choosing either one of those depends on which format the video is in.

wmv - works beautifully through the 360 using WMC or MCE extender.
mpeg 2 - not supported natively on the 360, although it can play MPEG-2 DVDs ... WTF? the best option here is to use an MCE extender session. alternately, you can use UPnP transcoders like Tversity and Orb to transcode on the fly to WMV.
mpeg 4 - just recently became natively supported on the 360. this works for most of my MP4 vids (after a registry fix to get them in WMP11), but some of them fail. if they fail, i cant use MCE, because it does not support MP4 on extenders (yet). so i have to use a UPnP transcoder or an MCE Transcoder like Transcode 360.
avi - not supported natively on the 360, nor is it supported by an MCE extender session. so you have to use a UPnP transcoder or Transcode 360 on MCE.
other - transcode.

and transcoding is a pain in the ass. Tversity has great quality, but it periodically quits on some vids for me. nor can i resume from where it failed. havent been able to get the quality as high on Orb, but it seems slightly more reliable. plus i cant start a vid from the middle, fast forward, skip, etc... Transcode 360 has similar issues. quality is great, but it will sometime skip portions of the video. plus you can only have one UPnP transcoder sync'd to the 360 at a time. so i frequently have to disconnect and reconnect to a transcoder depending on if i want high quality or better reliability. a decision that shouldn't have to be made in the first place.

because of this nonsense, the top level folders for my videos are separated by video format (videos/avi, videos/mp4, videos/mpg, videos/wmv, videos/other), depending on how i can play them. could this get any uglier ...


DesktopWeb FormText   unified communications hardwareMon, 14 May 2007 15:27:04 GMT # 

(from engadget) MS shows off unified communications devices. there are a couple different things that interest me here. first, is the LG-Nortel IP Phone. the interesting part is the color screen UI ... as a developer ... i want access to that. next, there are some interesting headsets which would come in handy for controlling Vista with speech recognition. but the most interesting device is the MS RoundTable (pic below). 360 degrees of video goodness ... with a microphone array. it would be so much fun to write some code to work with that.


DesktopWeb FormText   the PS3 eye is bad assSun, 13 May 2007 18:53:05 GMT # 

details here. its specs as a camera are really good, but what has me drooling is the four-mic array! i am holding my breath that Sony will release a PC driver for it. if so, this will be the perfect accessory for a voice-controlled MCE PC.

actually, i'd really love to voice control an xbox 360 ... but there are too many issues. XNA not providing access or access to the headset stream, not to mention no network or media access. nor do we get access to the cameras video stream. 360 extender sessions not providing an audio output channel from the 360 back to the MCE PC. 360 having security to keep off other controllers.

the only way to do it now is a total hack. you need a mic in the same room as the 360 that connects all the way back to the extended MCE PC. then the MCE PC will perform speech reco and send the command to a plugin running under the 360 session, and that plugin will execute the command. lame


DesktopWeb FormText   chicken and squirrelsSun, 13 May 2007 16:34:12 GMT # 

interesting trip to the gym this morning.

for some unknown reason, i always take the scenic route to the gym on sundays. on the way there, i almost ran over a baby squirrel. instincts take over and i always slow down to avoid squishing them. but my mind always kicks in too, and for a split second, i question if i should run it over for the sake of natural selection. not that i ever would ... but i always think about it.

then further up, i see an oncoming truck thats partially in my lane. i know this game, and since i dont care about my car, i pull it to the line to claim my space. this is a long straight away, and they are pretty far out, so they drift over more. i do the same. this continues until we're both in the wrong lane when we pass. never had that happened before.


DesktopWeb FormText   (un)expected downtimeFri, 11 May 2007 16:47:10 GMT # 

my internet connection has become extremely unreliable the last couple weeks. so i'm in the process of switching providers. hope to be on a more reliable connection in a week or two.


DesktopWeb FormText   HD-DVD and Blu-RayWed, 02 May 2007 01:21:09 GMT # 

chose HD-DVD months ago. early in the year, i was questioning the decision. actually, i wasn't questioning HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray, i was really questioning another physical format vs downloadable content (especially with the XBox 360 video marketplace). but i'm feeling great about HD-DVD now, primarily since AACS is getting hacked. so that gives me the 'out' from the physical media; which i'm currently trying to figure out with regular DVDs. on the Blu-Ray side, which is also vulnerable to the AACS hacks, they are speeding up the adoption of BD+, which is additional DRM ... yuck! so i'm really glad i didnt go that route. for marketing, i'm thinking the HD-DVD group should just start saying 'we have less DRM'. i.e. market towards consumers! if they get the consumers, then the content providers will have to come.


DesktopWeb FormText   green martSun, 29 Apr 2007 18:31:03 GMT # 

been seeing these wal-mart commercials pushing fluorescent light bulbs and organic pajamas. i'm ok with the lightbulb one, but the organic pajamas? are they edible or something? edible panties, ok ... but entire pajamas, maybe if i skipped dinner. and if you really want to save resources ... sleep in the nude


DesktopWeb FormText   DVDs to 360Sat, 28 Apr 2007 17:16:18 GMT # 

hate physical media (aka CDs, DVDs, etc...). right now my particular problem is getting a DVD collection to multiple XBox 360s. not a luddite, so sneakernet is not an option

the first step is working with the collection. there is no way i'm going to rip the collection one by one. so i purchased the Sony MCE DVD Changer and can get programmatic access to the DVDs using the MediaChanger API. it gives you volume info, a unique identifier, and metadata to create a DVDID.xml file too.

the second step is ripping. not 100% sure, but i think the current (US) legal status is i'm allowed to make a copy by fair use, but DMCA severely limits your options for making that backup ... WTF? but you can download tools that can be run from the command line to rip purchased DVDs. can tie this to my program above to automate ripping most of the DVDs that i have. some of my DVDs have extra Sony BS, so i'll have to do rip those manually.

that'll give me the raw IFOs/VOBs on disk, in their own directories, with DVDID.xml info. that is enough for Vista MCE. just apply the registry mod to enable the DVD Gallery, then it can use the DVDID info to get cover art and such. and MCE can play from disk with menu support and all that ... awesome.

but my MCE machine is not connected to a TV, i'm only using it as a server to multiple 360s. and this is where the current MS offerings break down. VOBs are MPEG2 with extra DVD stuff (subtitles, menus, diff pr0n camera angles, ...). even though the 360 can handle MPEG2, it can choke on some of the extra VOB info. dont think the Spring Update for the 360 does anything to fix this? what sucks is the 360 can handle DVDs directly from disk, so i'm assuming it just needs to be enabled to play from other sources?

the next option is to take the VOBs and run them through some programs to strip out the extra DVD stuff, and just end up with MPEGs or a single MPEG. this processing is pretty quick, but i'd rather not lose menus and such. plus you're burning up alot of disk space at that point. especially if you want to keep the VOBs around too, for menu support on MCE.

so the next option is to reencode the primary MPEG2 to a newer format, which will end up chewing up alot of CPU time. the encoding tests i've run so far, has WMV encoding at about 2x playback speed to keep the quality similar (WMV9 720x480). that's slower than i want it to be. alternately, the upcoming 360 update will add H.264 support. this is interesting because there are a handful of USB H.264 hardware encoders on the market. so i'll have to pick a couple of those up and give them a spin. there are also DivX hardware encoders ... but thats moot since its not supported on the 360. finally, since WMV9 is an open protocol now, how come i cant find any USB WMV9 hardware encoders? if MS really wants me to encode all my content to WMV, then they need to speed up encoding (faster than their current software offerings).

so i'm pretty much stuck. i can finish off my program to mass rip and create DVDIDs to play nicely with MCE. but i dont have a good solution to get to the 360 ... yet. what i'll probably do is create a script to rename the .VOBs to .MPGs. then i can see if that is at least partially usable before doing any more processing. but i'm really hoping that MS just provides better VOB playback on the 360. anyway ... this should be easier.


DesktopWeb FormText   hate half mastMon, 23 Apr 2007 05:11:02 GMT # 

might have blogged this before ... but i have problems with the flag being flown at half mast. it's just too negative. i'll be driving around high off life, minding my own business, and then i'll spot one ... and it brings me down. because it reminds me that something bad happened. most of the time i have no clue what i'm supposed to be respectful of ... but it still gets its point across. and there's no way in hell i'm going to actually go and find out what happened ... or turn on the news. find it best to remain oblivious to the real world. instead, i prefer the stoic 'never show weakness' approach. we should always fly the flag full mast. so when something bad happens, and our enemies are looking for a soft spot, all they see is business as usual. the old take their best punch and then ask them if thats all they got. else, i'd go for dividing the mast into 3rds. making 1/3 mast for bad days, 2/3 mast for average days, and full mast for days we really kicked ass. so on the days that i was feeling down, and saw a flag at full mast, then it would potentially cheer me up.


DesktopWeb FormText   Silverlight for MCE on the 360Wed, 18 Apr 2007 13:32:26 GMT # 

already asked for this a # of times ... but i want to see Silverlight (formerly WPF/e) on the XBox 360 for MCE development. it's a small 2 meg runtime made to run everywhere, with great media support. the small runtime should mean that its not that big of an issue to get it over to the 360 ... just like XNA made it over. the XNA developers are already interested in it as a possibility for UI dev. and Silverlight would give MCE developers an alternative to MCML for Online Spotlight apps that render at full fidelity on the 360. not to mention it would give MCE development some much needed momentum. e.g. much larger developer base, Expression (and i'm assuming Orcas) tool support, books, easier transition for desktop WPF developers ... MCML doesnt (and will not) have this momentum. Silverlights feature set is likely to expand much quicker than MCML, plus it will broaden to run on devices. there is no reason the MCE should have its own UI markup language, its a total duplication of effort which makes no sense to me. MCE should leverage the UI platform made by teams that make UI platforms, while the MCE team should concentrate on exposing more media functionality through its SDKs.

Silverlight also needs to make it over to the 360 and other platforms if it really wants to take on Flash. with the PS3 and Wii already having browsers, Silverlight needs to get as much reach as possible. so that when a company is figuring out what technology they are going to use for their 10 ft interface, that Silverlight isnt an option because it wont run on the platforms in peoples living rooms. if the choice is between writing one Flash app, or writing it in Flash and MCML ... then only having to write the Flash app once will win


DesktopWeb FormText   goog 411Fri, 13 Apr 2007 05:08:02 GMT # 

got to play with goog 411 for about 10 minutes yesterday. thought the speech recognition accuracy was really good, and the synthesis was ok. love the funny sound it makes while searching. it even returned results when i asked for 'strip clubs' :)

but then the developer in me kicked in. with the public beta of Office Communications Server 2007 and the Live Search SDK, it would take less than a week to mashup the same functionality (minus the hardware infrastructure) using MS services. the only thing that might be tough to do is generate a grammar for nearby businesses and nearby categories? of course MS has access to that data, but i dont think its easily accessible using the Search SDK. not to mention that maps.live.com doesnt return any results for 'strip clubs' ... :(


DesktopWeb FormText   MVP award : Office Communications ServerSun, 01 Apr 2007 14:23:48 GMT # 

renewal time again. and i'm extremely happy to say that my new MVP award category is Office Communications Server! i was really scared that i wouldn't be renewed this year. the main reason is because i spent last year specifically targeting the short-lived Speech Server MVP category ... which was created about a year ago, and then removed at the end of last year. so i was thinking that my Speech Server concentration might be too specific to get me into the Office Communications umbrella. didn't know if the MSN bot contributions would help out or not? anyway, i really like the concept that communications is now mostly a software problem, and cant wait to play around with what is possible through the vision of Unified Communications. with the main goal always being to push for the most powerful developer platform.

really enjoyed being a Media Center MVP last year. the group is primarily consumer focused, as it should be, but its awesome that they'll allow developers in (Tablet PC group was the same way). the best thing about mixed consumer/developer groups is that the developers get to hear about upcoming features and what features the other MVPs think are missing. for upcoming product features, i get to brainstorm what apps that feature might enable ... and i get to sound like a broken record, asking if 'we get an API'? :) and the MVP feature requests give me tons of ideas of apps that i can write to explore the power of the platform for developers.

this also ends a 5-year goal, to get 5 different award categories in 5 years : tablet 03, embedded 04, web services 05, media center 06, office communications 07. this goal was made 5 years ago when i really bought into the vision of 'pervasive computing'. the problem with pervasive computing is that it requires knowledge of many different computing technologies. other technologies including : location based, AI, security, etc ... which i targeted as well. anyway, i'm really glad that the MVP program humored me and allowed me to keep jumping groups.

that was the good news. the bad news is it marks a failed goal to become a regional director in 5 years. never figured how to pull that off, and when it comes to it, i'm probably too irreverent to make a respectable RD. did think i had a bit of a shot in Wisconsin, since we don't have an RD. the excuse has always been that our RD representative is out of Chicago, but i've never actually met those people in my community involvement. our community mostly doesn't even know what an RD is. from my nomadic wanderings to other cities, i found that knowing an RD was very valuable. so on the off chance somebody sees this, Wisconsin could use some RD love.

now it's time to come up with a new 5-year plan. it's highly doubtful that this will include pursuing a 6th award category. reason being is that actively pursuing specific award categories each year is a double edged sword. on one hand it forces me to focus on a single technology, but it also keeps me away from other technologies. right now i'm feeling more flooded with new technologies than ever before : AJAX, WPF/e, .NET 3.0, LINQ, MicroFramework, XNA, ... instead of picking one to concentrate on, i'll probably just start picking them off one by one. plus i've got some nonsense articles i want to write for fun ...


DesktopWeb FormText   173Fri, 30 Mar 2007 06:26:56 GMT # 


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : spring leg workoutsSun, 25 Mar 2007 23:33:52 GMT # 

nothing like shorts weather to kick your leg workouts into gear. wouldnt say that i've got bird legs, but my arms are making them look a bit small. it really sucks that calves are my hard-gain body part. i've never been able to make them grow in the past. but it's been long enough since the last failed attempt ... that it's time to try again :)

for supplements, i tried the MuscleTech stack : Creakic, Gakic, Leukic. although, i really like their Cell-Tech workout drink, the stack hasnt done anything for me ... other than waste money. i generally get better results from pure creatine and BCAAs; plus they're alot cheaper. my next supplement experiment will probably be some form of HGH. yep, the stuff Stallone was busted for. you can actually get some forms of it legally ... in really small doses. the only reason i'm considering it now is that the more reputable companies are starting to make GH products. before, it was pretty much being sold by no-name companies, making it too risky to attempt. as always, i'll be taking small doses and will cycle off of it.


DesktopWeb FormText   /mceSapi updateSat, 10 Mar 2007 05:56:36 GMT # 

for 'The Speech Speech' UG presentation, i updated the /mceSapi code to run on Vista MCE and to use System.Speech.


DesktopWeb FormText   'The Speech Speech' presentation is postedThu, 08 Mar 2007 15:03:16 GMT # 

just posted the powerpoint from 'The Speech Speech' user group presentation. it has the links to the different articles i've written about speech. the individual articles link to the source code that was presented last night.


DesktopWeb FormText   Madison .NET UG : The Speech SpeechTue, 27 Feb 2007 16:10:14 GMT # 

i'll be presenting MS Speech technologies next week (Wednesday, March 7th) at the Madison .NET User Group. register for the meeting here. at a high level, the meeting will cover :

1) Basics of how speech synthesis and speech recognition works
2) The speech recognizer that is built into Vista's shell
3) Using System.Speech (SAPI 5.3) in desktop applications
4) A preview of Speech Server 2007 for VOIP/telephony apps


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : roidsWed, 21 Feb 2007 02:59:36 GMT # 

part of going to the gym is to compete. i'm mainly competing against myself, but it also helps to indirectly compete against other people. so if i'm having a bad day, and somebody else is workout out hard, then that makes me feel like a pussy and helps me get a good workout in. so one of the guys at the gym thats really been packing on size and strength just told me that he's been doing roids. crap! that's cheating. out of all the gyms i've been too, i would guess that at least 5% of the lifters are on roids. but i generally try not to know who has an unfair advantage, and assume they're all-natural, to push myself harder. with my genetics, i can keep up with most on size and strength; and get my ass kicked on fat loss. of course i know that i'd be freakin huge if i ever took roids ... but i refuse to cheat. granted, i do take it as a complement on the rare occasions i get accused of roids. just wish someone would come up with an over the counter supplement that would level the playing field ... until then, i can only work with my genetics, training, food (supplements), and rest


DesktopWeb FormText   new article : /xnaSynthMon, 19 Feb 2007 05:34:55 GMT # 

/xnaSynth is an XNA game library for performing Speech Synthesis on the XBox 360. full source code is provided, to show how a basic speech synthesis engine works


DesktopWeb FormText   stop gap for speech hackTue, 13 Feb 2007 05:58:41 GMT # 

Rob Chambers tipped me off on how to programmatically re-activate Vista's Speech Recognition. it ended up being simple-stupid. all i had to do was create a RCW for the COM SpeechLib and call the method ISpRecognizer.SetRecoState(), which is not exposed from System.Speech. so i updated /micBarExtend to use this in tap-and-talk mode; which defeats the Speech Reco hack. now, the Speech Recognizer will be 'off' until a user presses a key to have it 'start listening'. when a user presses the tap-and-talk key again, then the Speech Recognizer will turn back to 'off'. this keeps a webpage playing malicious audio from having any effect without user interaction. granted, i consider the hack low priority ... but i was just looking for an excuse to kick around the Speech APIs.


DesktopWeb FormText   XNA speech synth sampleMon, 12 Feb 2007 02:00:06 GMT # 

been working on an XNA class lib for speech synthesis. at its core, it uses the resource files from FreeTTS. i simplified the string tokenization and removed the dynamic audio aspects (not supported by XNA). from my previous /ttSpeech article, i added in letter-to-sound processing for unknown words. also reading of whole numbers for high scores and such.

here's a sample

really wish that XNA would give us access to the headset input on the 360 ... which would give me an excuse to make a basic speech reco engine.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : end of mass buildingSat, 10 Feb 2007 23:42:41 GMT # 

this cycle went pretty good. upper body put on some good size. chest is near personal best for strength (5 reps of 345 lbs on flat bench). arm and sholder size is developing. back is fully healed and just beginning to build up. lower body injuries are still a bit tender, but i'm getting back to pushing decent weights (4 reps of 850 lbs on leg press).

next 3 weeks are mostly cardio and abs. want to drop about 10 lbs of fat, to get back to 245 lbs. took off morning cardio with my gimp leg. plus i've been slacking off and skipping abs, so i need to work them back into the routine.

for the next mass building cycle, i'm going to try and get my back near to its personal best ... that means wide. also want to get my legs fully healed so that i can get back to free weight squats. finally, i'll attempt to set a new personal best for bench press. that'll be a mental batte.


DesktopWeb FormText   trying to defeat the speech hackSat, 03 Feb 2007 06:41:29 GMT # 

to stop the hack, i need to extend /micBarExtend so that if it is in tap-and-talk mode, then it can only start/stop listening from key presses. so if any malicious audio is played, then nothing will happen unless a user has physically pressed a key. first step was figuring out how to get a reference to the mic device. then you can just call SetMute() on that mic device and the mic will not receive any audio input. the cool part is, if you have the Speech Recognizer running, and mute the microphone, then the Speech Recognizer will go into 'off' mode. excellent! so it won't receive any 'start listening' audio commands. but the problem is when i unmute the mic, it doesn't turn back 'on' and start listening again. crap! so i just need to figure out how i can programmatically put it back into a 'listening' after i have set it to 'off'. if anybody on the Speech Recognizer team has any hints ... i'm listening


DesktopWeb FormText   attempts to fix speech reco attachFri, 02 Feb 2007 05:33:39 GMT # 

alright, so i kicked around /micBarExtend to try and prevent the hack :

first attempt was to add a user-defined keyword. so that a user would say 'computer open notepad' instead of just 'open notepad'; with 'computer' being the user-defined keyword. it would ignore all other audio input until hearing the keyword. then after hearing the keyword, it would only be listening for some short period of time. then it would only start listening for the user defined keyword again. the problem is it doesn't look like the System.Speech API gives us a way to hook the built-in Speech UI commands, so i have no way of intercepting those calls and preventing them from happening.

the next attempt was to extend the tap-and-talk functionality to only be activated with a user key press. so i made a grammar that only listens for 'start listening'. the problem is that the built-in Speech UI has a higher priority than my 3rd party grammar, even if i max out the priority of my grammar. so there is no way for me to intercept that event and handle it.

next idea is a total hack. have a timer polling to see if the Speech UI is listening. if its listening, and wasn't tap-and-talk triggered, then programmatically send a 'stop listening' command to prevent the hack from occuring. the problem is i dont get an event when 'start listening' occurs. also, it doesn't look like there is a property for me to check to see if the speech recognizer is listening or not.

the only other thing i could think of is a bit of a hack too. the idea is to turn off microphone input until the tap-and-talk button is pressed. and only allow mic input between tap-and-talk key presses. now i just need to figure out how i can programmatically control mic input in Vista ... but if i can figure that out, then that will defeat the attack :)

of course MS can easily fix it a # of ways : 1) user defined keyword 2) tap-and-talk mode. actually, i would prefer for keyboards/mice/remotes to have dedicated buttons to trigger speech reco 3) filter audio output, so that it cannot be used as speech reco input 4) speaker recognition, so that it will only listen to audio input from a specific users voice ... that's all i can think of at the moment


DesktopWeb FormText   vista speech reco security holeThu, 01 Feb 2007 23:33:05 GMT # 

this made me laugh too : Vista has speech recognition hole. the concept is that a user opens up a web page which plays an audio file. that audio output would then be picked up my a users mic, with the speech recognizer running ... then it could delete files, close windows, etc... ok, that could also be done if you have an asshole roommate. anyway, i consider that a pretty weak security hole.

but if you're scared, just don't leave the speech recognizer running all the time. instead, use it in tap-and-talk mode, which /micBarExtend already supports.


DesktopWeb FormText   dancing is stupidWed, 31 Jan 2007 23:44:35 GMT # 

so this made me laugh my ass off : Aqua Teen Hunger Force LED art shuts down Boston? of course i'm also disgusted by the culture of fear that allowed it to happen in the first place. makes me want to fire up V for Vendetta.

ATHF was my favorite show for the last couple years, with the 'Broodwich' episode being the best. can't wait for the movie to come out ...

but my new favorite show is 'Frisky Dingo', the 'Meet Awesome X' episode ... shut up hooker :)


DesktopWeb FormText   home theater complexityMon, 29 Jan 2007 03:50:53 GMT # 

got a modest home theater setup now (my first) ... and i have to say that i'm pretty disgusted with the complexity. i forget the exact reports, but i remember seeing headlines about a year ago in which most people that thought they had HD did not actually have HD either because they weren't getting HD content or did not have their components connected properly. and during CES i saw another report about how people thought home theater was the most complex CE device they had to deal with. of course this hits home when i go to visit my parents and see them try to switch from the TV to the DVD player. they end up figuring out the 2 remotes to use in the process, as well as the sequence of button presses that need to be made ... but if that sequence doesnt work, they are pretty much hosed. 1) my own experience is that it took way too much research on my part before i felt comfortable to make a buying decision. it was actually easier for me to make my last computer purchase than it was to purchase a television ... does that seem right? 2) hooking everything up wasn't a problem, except i've got one of those 1080p TVs that only supports 1080p through HDMI, so i'm not getting the full resolution that the 360 can support. and i had to go into the audio settings of the TV to get the volume to work properly with the receiver; changing audio out from variable to fixed level. not sure if my parents could have figured that one out? 3) then the next step is trying to figure out how to get HD content : cable, satellite, video on demand, and ultimately IPTV. my cable company only offers a large upsell pacakge, and i hate satellite, so i've opted for video on demand through the 360 video marketplace and i'm hoping that MCE starts offering HD VOD (maybe Vongo?) 4) just for fun, throw in a format war. i'm pro HD-DVD for a # of reasons, but i'm also becoming less interested in physical media altogether. especially with the cost and limited fair usage rights. 5) finally there is the day to day operation. 3 remotes is a bit much. so i opted to try a Logitech Harmony remote. i'm really impressed with their concept of 'activities', but there is still the problem of state. it doesn't replace the 3 other remotes because they each offer easy access to specific functionality for each component. plus the TS already knows how to use some of those remotes. so then its too easy to use one of the other remotes to power on/off a device and change the known state of the Harmony remote. so when it thinks it is turning a device off, its actually turning it on (because it thinks it was still on). this could easily be fixed by having more remote codes, such as 'turn the device on, even if its already on' ... instead of 'toggle power'. or components need a way to report their current state. forget that, RF should be scratched altogether. we are beyond line of sight, so i feel stupid having to point a remote in the proper direction. or having to move the laundry basket off the coffee table because i was too lazy to fold clothes, and now i cant change the channel. anyway, the home theater industry has pretty much convinced me that i dont need to go to a real movie theater anymore. that and stupid people with cell phones. er, um ... except maybe to see the Transformers movie! but the home theater industry also needs to get their act together and greatly simplify the entire experience.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : wiiSun, 28 Jan 2007 18:54:37 GMT # 

i'm definitely an Xbox 360 fanboy. on the brawn side of the fence, it's a recovery time sink. so after a workout when the muscles need to recover, it's the perfect device by providing games and access to media. but on non-workout days, when i could handle moderate activity ... the nintendo wii has my interest. i'm really surprised that nintendo has not been playing that up more. if i were them, i would start rating games with some health level. something like expected # of calories burned per 30 minutes. then start cranking out some games primarily targeting players health. er, um ... back to being a 360 fanboy. in reality, i would prefer MS to 'embrace/innovate/integrate' their own wiimote-style controller scheme, tie in achievements, live, etc...


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : muscle building supplementsSun, 28 Jan 2007 18:26:47 GMT # 

tried a bunch of different supplements last year, so here is a rundown (in order of importance) :

1) multivitamin - i think its pretty much universally accepted that everybody should be taking a multivitamin. for joints, i also recommend glucosamine and chondroitin.
2) protein - protein has overtaken creatine as my next most important supplement. wish that i had known how important it was years ago. the most critical is whey protein immediately after workout, and i also need caseinated protein before i go to bed. because i'm trying to gain i also take egg protein in the morning and a blend in the afternoon.
3) creatine - a long time favorite. my guess is that its most important immediately after a workout (before protein). but i also take it before workout too. NOTE that this must be cycled off periodically
4) BCAAs - most important after a workout for recovery. usually take with creatine.
5) ZMA - helps with recovery overnight. NOTE that this must be cycled off
6) glutamine - also for recovery. i take this in the morning and at night.
7) andro - worked for me ... but it's no longer on the market :(

and here's the list of stuff i tried that didn't seem effective : HMB, Endothil-CR, DHEA, NO, AAKG, Tribulus, L-Tyrosine, Dessicated Liver

at some point i want to try some L-Leucine products, as well as HGH. HGH is highly questionable though, so i would have to do some more research first.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : been lifting heavySat, 27 Jan 2007 15:45:09 GMT # 

starting to get back to pushing some serious weight. my flat bench max is probably 375 right now, and i'm about to start doing reps of 315 on incline. my goal is to get to 5 reps of 365 on flat bench and then go for a 405 max within 3 months. both arms are now measuring in at 18 inches and i've been curling 75 dumbbells with good form. they've still got a little fat on them, but not much. biceps are just now beginning to form a peak, so my goal is to develop that further to get some more size. back has finally recovered from a 3 month injury. don't know how, but i had pulled something where my left lat ties into the rib cage. that really crippled back workouts, but i've been hitting it pretty heavy for the last couple weeks with only minor discomfort. back is an easy gainer for me, so my goal is to just pack on some mass and get the lats to spread. lower body workouts have been crippled too, due to a minor right knee injury. gave it some down time to heal, but now i'm starting to recuperate it wth leg work and a brace to add stability. even though leg strength should return quickly, i'm going to purposefully hold them back so that strength gains do not outpace my joints. because that is why i think i've had so many injuries ... joints could not keep pace with the strength gain. bodyweight is 250 right now, with a little more fat than i'm comfortable with from the holidays. the knee injury has kept me off cardio, but i should be able to start working it back in soon. anyway, it's time to go to the gym now ...


DesktopWeb FormText   addicted to achievementsSat, 20 Jan 2007 16:26:17 GMT # 

here is something you didn't know about me ... i've become addicted to xbox 360 achievements. now instead of answering 'i dont want to do that', my new response is 'that doesnt have any achievements'. got most achievements by actually earning them and TS earned the puzzle/card game ones; but i even went so far attain points with the saved game hacks. yep, i cheated. nope, i don't feel bad about it. anyway, i dont think the saved game hacks work anymore ... which sucks, because that also would unlock content in many games.

anyway, i'm about to hit a gamer score of 10K, so the addiction is getting worse the closer i get to that milestone. i've got enough restraint to hold back from renting king kong (easy 1000 points) for the weekend, and finishing it off that way. instead, i chose to feed another addiction ... coding! decided to write a program to help me find out which achievements i should be able to get from the games that i already own. xbox.com provides a limited developer community for gamer tag info : XDCN. i applied, but was not accepted. nor do i know whose ass i need to kiss to get in the program. pretty stupid, they just need to open it up to anybody.

but one of the sites in the program is Top360Tag.com. they are unique in that they have game stats for the # of people that have played the game, and (for some games) the # of people to earn each achievement. so i wrote a quick program to scrape their site and then order the achievements based on # of gamers earned / # of gamers played. this gives me a list of achievements from most difficult to least difficult. the final part is to then map my gamertag info for which games i own and which achievements i already have. this will allow me to easily see which achievements i should be able to get, and just never went after. e.g. it looks like there is an easy co-op one for Robotron that i could get for 15 points. anyway, i'm hoping that Top360Tag.com would add this functionality in the future.

here is the raw data that was scraped. NOTE that Top360Tag.com does not have individual achievement data for every game. nor are they tracking every gamer tag. so it's just a best guesstimate.


DesktopWeb FormText   five things you dont know about meSat, 20 Jan 2007 15:45:45 GMT # 

i've been tagged : Anil, Larry, Chris

1) i don't participate in chain blogs like "five things you dont know about me" :)

er, um ... if anyone actually reads this blog, then they already know more about me than they ever wanted to.


DesktopWeb FormText   MS CES 2007 keynoteMon, 08 Jan 2007 05:08:55 GMT # 

somehow developing for MCE actually turned me into a consumer. so i watched the CES keynote. first off, some of the things i wanted to hear, that weren't mentioned (in no particular order) :

-DivX codec on the 360 - seeing 'Cannot play video' in extender sessions bugs the hell out of me. especially with the limited amount of HD content that is currently available.
-bigger harddrive, HDMI/HDCP, and new controllers for the 360.
-360 video marketplace on MCE - they showed some live anywhere on the PC and some online spotlight video providers, but i didn't see the video marketplace on MCE.

now i'm just going to pick out some highlights of what was presented :

-3D local live search - i'm wondering if developers get access to the 3D models that they are using?
-MCE online spotlights - those aren't 360 marketplace providers. are we going to get those providers on the 360, and when do we get the 360 providers on MCE?
-ultra mobiles - sure hope round 2 is better than round 1.
-windows home server - i want one!
-live anywhere - if i've bought an arcade game on the 360 (e.g. Uno), will i be able to download it and play on a PC, with my existing live subscription and arcade purchase?
-IPTV - this is compelling. wonder how this works? is a cable provider still involved?
-telematics - why the hell is this a Ford exclusive? and i doubt we'll see an API :(


DesktopWeb FormText   choosing HD-DVDSun, 07 Jan 2007 18:07:23 GMT # 

although i'm generally not a physical media kind of guy, i needed more HD content to check out the new TV. so i've chosen to go with HD-DVD for the DVD format war. NOTE i find it pretty ridiculous that we are having a format war to begin with. it's not like we've had enough time to forget our recent history. regardless, here's why i'm choosing HD-DVD :

-xbox 360 drive - for media, the 360 is kicking the PS3 and Wii's ass (MCE, UPnP, Video Marketplace). and the 360 HD-DVD drive is a great low cost add-on that should ultimately work on my MCE PC too using Cyberlink's PowerDVD Ultra software. granted my new notebooks video card should be powerful enough, but is not currently supported. plus i like having options.
-quality - the eagle eyes pretty much chose HD-DVD unanimously last year. e.g. best high-def discs of 2006
-cost - the stand-alone drives are cheaper, as well as the media. there generally seems to be a $5 price point between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray titles. so i hope the HD-DVD side really keeps driving down the price.
-combo discs - only HD-DVD has the option for a disc that works in both HD-DVD players and regular DVD titles. the combo disks add about an $8 price point ... not bad, but i'd like to see that come down a bit more. and then there should be alot more combo disks.
-less copy protection - if i'm not mistaken, one of the selling points of Blu-Ray is additional copy protection. er, um ... as a consumer, i don't like that.
-porn - there are only a handful (intended), but you can find some HD-DVD porn titles. checked some adult DVD online stores, and a couple had HD-DVD sections, but Blu-Ray was nowhere to be found. the initial stories i read said the porn industry would choose Blu-Ray for the additional copy protection, but now it seems that they are choosing HD-DVD for the cheaper production costs.
-not sony - this is totally subjective ... but i've become distrustful of Sony over the last couple years. i used to think they were a great company, but i don't like many of their recent decisions. that said, i just bough a Sony TV ... and it rocks :)

now for the bad news :

-studio support - there are currently more studios in the Blu-Ray camp. so there are a handful of movies on Blu-Ray only that i would like to purchase. but i'm not going to spend $500 on a PS3 to see those movies. so i'm hoping that those studios will decide to not leave money on the table and start producing the titles in HD-DVD too. but if you check amazon, there are an equal number of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray titles. in-stores, i'm seeing more HD-DVD titles.
-recording - just by browsing in store i've come across Blu-Ray burners and media. i've yet to see either an HD-DVD recorder or recordable media in store.


DesktopWeb FormText   HD trialsFri, 05 Jan 2007 02:56:48 GMT # 

went ahead and picked up an HDTV ... so i've been playing. quality-wise, my eyes can see 3 levels of quality : 1) standard def 2) DVD 3) 720p and above. although the TV can support 1080p, i can't tell the difference between 720p.

now the quest begins for HD content. first attempt was OTA. this failed miserably because we live in the middle of nowhere, in a valley. this means i'd have to put up a mega antenna to get any signals. second attempt was through the HDTV itself. surprisingly, although we only get basic (analog) cable, the internal tuner picked up some digital channels. ends up these channels are broadcasted using unencrypted QAM. of course i picked up a QAM tuner to try on MCE ... and MCE Vista doesn't support clear QAM. lame. third attempt was to call our local cable provider. to get the HD channels, i've got to get their digital channels too. not really interested in 170 channels of crap ... all i want is the handful of HD channels. nor am i interested in getting a satellite service. so i'm pretty disappointed with the state of HD distribution ... except for the xbox 360. the 360 has made the HDTV purchase worth it. with it providing HD through games, the video marketplace, HD-DVD drive, and streaming from my computer. i.e. if it weren't for the 360, i'm pretty sure i'd be regretting the HDTV purchase.


DesktopWeb FormText   Mon, 01 Jan 2007 17:50:08 GMT # 

wrote 10 articles last year. primary concentration started out as Media Center, and then switched to Speech. an unexpected concentration was using Workflow Foundation for developing instant messaging bots. anyway, the following were the most popular articles last year :

/mceDivX360 - was the first programmatic hack to get DivX to play on an XBox 360. it was only cool for a couple months before better solutions came around ... but it got a ton of links in that time. it beat out /aiCaptcha as being the most popular article i've ever written. my current feeling is that the XBox 360 should just support DivX/XviD out of the box. i should never have to see 'Cannot Play Video' in an extended media center experience.

/veWorldWind - is for getting Virtual Earth (aka local.live.com) imagery into the 3D environment of NASAs WorldWind. there have been some other articles and plugins written using pieces of that code, and its rumored that it might make it into an actual WorldWind distro. that would be awesome!

/mobileRecord - is an instant messaging (and voice only) bot used to schedule TV recordings from a mobile device. it got 4th place in the RobotInvaders.com contest. plus it got linked by MAKE, and is the first time one of my articles made engadget.

/micBarExtend - er, um ... this not a popular article, but it's one of the first things i've written that i actually keep using :) usually, i just 'write it and forget it' ... Ronco style. but i really love the speech integration in Vista, and /micBarExtend adds the additional commands i want. now i mostly use it in tap and talk mode.

so what about the past articles? /aiCaptcha still gets a ton of hits, plus i still get emails asking to crack certain CAPTCHAs. /cfWorldWind is popular with university projects and is getting more hits now as people are thinking about porting it to XNA. /barCode, /aiSomPic /noReco, and /ttSpeech still get alot of traffic too.


DesktopWeb FormText   goals of y2k6Mon, 01 Jan 2007 17:16:54 GMT # 

time to evaulate my goals from last year ...

the experiement for last year was to focus on contests. the idea was to steer my articles based on what contests MS was running. so 3 of the 10 articles from last year were contest entries. with the /mobileRecord entry getting a 4th place finish for a 2nd place prize (+). ends up the real win from that entry is the amount of press that it got (+). /veWorldWind didn't win anything (-), but it had a # of derivative works and might end up in the next distro of WorldWind (+) ... that'd be cool. but the big let down was i didn't get past the idea round for the MadeInExpress contest (-). anyway, my main take away from the experiment is that judges are a huge variable. there is no telling what they are going to like. plus you don't get to see the raw judging scores to see where you could improve.

technology wise, i started out concentrating on Media Center to get that MVP award (+). then i transitioned to mainly working on speech / dialog-related articles in my spare time (+). another goal was to get transitioned to Vista and start doing all development in .NET 3.0 ... which is mostly accomplished (+). the final goal was to upgrade my MCSD .NET certification, but i ultimately chose not to (-), because the existing certification isn't doing much. didn't get to rework the website (-), but at least i got a new server in place (+).

on the brawn front, i had a solid year of weights, and introduced more cardio (+); but the problem is i kept getting injured (-). the big change is transitioning from powerlifting to bodybuilding, and this is taking longer than anticipated.


DesktopWeb FormText   article : /speechSamplesMon, 01 Jan 2007 02:54:47 GMT # 

/speechSamples is a simple article about the System.Speech API. it provides some sample code for working with speech synthesis, speech recognition, and provides a little hack for getting phoneme info.

the articles over 4 weeks old, and i've been sitting on it waiting to get some questions answered by MS. still haven't got those questions answered. the System.Speech team needs to improve their community support