Is the HD Up?

This one's for the locals.

The weather has been not so nice lately. Thousands of people were, or still are, without power for days after our weekend storm. I was lucky enough to only lose power for an hour.

With that stage set, I turned on the TV tonight and found no stations. I ditched cable and only have OTA digital and HD now. I immediately began cursing my antenna. Surely the power surges from all of the work going on in the state killed my antenna I thought. I switch the antenna over to the analog in put and was able to get something out of it. The antenna was fine.

I then immediately began cursing my TV. Stupid TV, it must have blown the ATSC tuner as I wasn't getting any signal. Ahh, but wait. With some more playing, I found FOX, on a different channel, so the ATSC tuner was working. So what was the problem.

I went to the trusty computer and did some digging. Turns out, the HD antenna farm near Walker was again without power and that was the source of the TV with no signal. My gear was working, thankfully, and now I have a resource to check to see if the HD signals are up. CFU plots OTA HD reception and is your one stop to see if the HD stations are up or down.


5 of The Now

  • LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum - EP - North American Scum (Radio Edit) [In college, I went on a 3 week study to central mexico. One of the things that really stood out from that trip was how much they hated that people in the US called themselves Americans. It's the perfect example of us being self-centered. There are a lot of Americans, including those in Mexico and Canada. They wanted to make sure we understood we were all Americans. That said, I think the lower half of North America would rather be left out of the topics in LCD Soundsystem's new track. I think LCD has the US squarely in their sights when they talk about North American scum. It's a great, dare I say, think piece, that hopefully opens a few eyes, and ears.]

  • Aesop Rock - All Day Aesop Rock - All Day: Nike+ Original Run - All Day: Nike+ Original Run (Continuous Mix) [This is one of the Nike+ Mixes which I've been quite happy with so far. One of the comments on iTunes describes this as "nothing more than a crappy techno album". Uhh what? He's correct in that the lyrics are few and far between, but this is a mix about the run, not about rockin' the stage. It does tend towards the dancier side of hip-hop, but again, that's the point. They have to maintain a consistent flow for 45 minutes and Aesop succeeds. I'm really digging this. While we're talking about Aesop, be sure to subscribe to the Definitive Jux podcast.]

  • Nelly Furtado - Say It Right Nelly Furtado - Loose - Say It Right[I'm still a sucker for Timbaland, even if he borrowed some beats for the other Furtado tracks. I heard this one enough on the radio to know I liked it and I listen to the radio infrequently enough that I'm probably not as tired of it as those that listen often :) I bought this off iTunes. Too bad the quality is crap and sounds muddier than a farm field in March. You can hear it in the sample, go listen.]

  • Trentemoller - Take Me Into Your Skin Trentemøller - The Last Resort - Take Me Into Your Skin [The problem with this track is that it is too good. It is the first track on the album and it sets a bar that is tough to get back to. Amazing music.]

  • Tycho - The Disconnect [This one isn't available on iTunes but you can listen on his website. If you like it, he does have an album on iTunes
    and Amazon. If you like Tycho's minimal style, you'll like the rest of Trentemoller's album as well.]


Watch Now, Not on a Mac

I'm excited because my Netflix account has been enabled with their new Watch Now service. I've been checking daily since the announcement. I don't know if it had anything to do with it, but I actually did a search on the site for Watch Now and then when I followed the search results it told me my account was now enabled. Perhaps they enable you if you go looking for it?

So, I have it, but I'm pretty limited on how I can use it. First, no Mac support at all. You need Windows and you need Internet Explorer. Firefox isn't supported. Luckily I can boot in to XP through the magic of Boot Camp.

Their auto-detect for speed has me at good quality. I'm on 5Mb DSL for reference.

I love that Netflix added this service for free. More to follow as I put the service through the paces.


Be Concise, Be Consistent

Some people wonder why other people can't get the hang of computers. They find using computers to be pretty easy and can't fathom why others have such a hard time with them. I'm not one of those people. Plenty of people think computers are hard because they are. They're complex, they're confusing, and the worst part is that simple investments at design time could go a long way towards making them easier to use.

Today I'm going to pick on Foxit Software, makers of the great, free, PDF reader for Windows. Like many of you, I grew tired of the bloat in Adobe Reader and decided to try things without it. While installing Foxit Reader, I was presented with an installer that, on the surface, looked just fine. However, if you take a gaze with a critical eye, you'll notice plenty of things that us geeks just accept but confuse the crap out of non-technical users.

In the first screenshot, we're being asked to choose a folder to install our application to. A reasonable default is preselected.

My problem is the Disk Space section. First off, what's a disk? I thought we were picking a folder? Then we see some stuff about total disk space and free disk space. I'll be honest, I've seen these things hundreds of times but at first I thought the total disk space was how much the app was going to burn!

It took me a bit to notice that the "disk to use" info was down in another section of the window. Why is the focus of this window the disk space indicator? Shouldn't the focus be the folder to install to and the disk space required? They don't even give me any indication if the selected disk has the appropriate room to install. I guess I could do the math, but wait, can I? I see I have 2205 MB available and the app is going to use 2.5M. Now, I know they are using the same units here, and you know they are using the same units, but do non-technical users know that an MB and a M are going to be the same in this case?

Why didn't they use the same units? Why did they include a space on one and not the other?

In our second screeshot we see something called a destination location. What's that? I thought I just picked an install folder. If you want to call it a destination location, then ask me to pick a destination location, not an install folder.

Now, a lot of you have already cursed at the screen and decided that I'm overly critical. If you have, good. I writing this post to you. This stuff does matter and it does confuse people. It would have taken about 20 seconds to have changed the installer at design time to use consistent terminology and put focus on the things that needed focus.


IE7 UI Blunders

I've used IE7 for a little while now and it's high time I complained about it! :)

For the first round of complaints, I'll address my UI hot button. Here's where I think they made some blunders.

  1. Separate reload and stop buttons - I think these should be the same button.

  2. Reload and stop buttons not near the page navigation - This one bothers me the most. These buttons are frequently used while going back and forward. Right now, they're hanging out in no-man's land between the location and search boxes. Why are they there? I don't understand the placement.

  3. Can't change the size of the address box - Anything beyond the first 20 or 30 characters is just script arguments and other junk that means nothing to users. IE7 makes sure you see it all.

  4. Can't change the size of the search box - Longer searches are useful to see. I could find no way to make this box bigger. Making the window bigger only makes the address box bigger. Safari lets you slide between these two boxes. A bigger search equals a smaller address. Perfect!

  5. Drop box on home button - How often do I need to change my home page? Almost never. How often to I go to my homepage? Dozens of times a day. How often would I miss the home button by 2 pixels and get the silly drop-down? Often.

  6. Multiple home pages? What's the difference between an additional home page and a regular link? Why couldn't I create a Home folder of links if I wanted multiple home pages? Maybe the Microsoft guys, with their huge net worths from cashing in stock are under the impression that most people have multiple homes and therefore need multiple home pages. I have microsoft.com for my Redmond estate, weather.com for the beach house in Maui, and skireport.com for the Whistler condo. Aww, the more I thought about this, the more I thought it might be a cool idea, but I pretended it wasn't long enough to write the Whistler condo joke.

It's not all bad. I love the blank piece of tab that you click to make a new tab.


Link The Fabulous Manual

I think every homeowner has a drawer or a shelf full of the manuals from their house. Things like, how to change your garage door code and cleaning maintenance for your clothes washer. They are full of useful, but rarely used information. You'd like to just toss the manuals, but you can't...or can you?

Recently I needed to change my garage code. I was unable to find the printed manual so I went online, expecting to be disappointed. Thankfully, I wasn't. My keypad manufacturer had a great set of manuals online in PDF format. Further searching showed that plenty of my printed manuals could be found online. I expect this from electronics, but household applicances have lagged behind a bit.

Wanting to simplify things a little, I figured I can download these manuals, store them on my comptuer, and whip up a quick web page to let me find them quickly.

He's a screenshot of the start of that idea. I plan to replace my quick house drawing with an actual picture of the house and I'll probably not only link the downloaded manuals, but also the manufacturer sites for reference.

I doubt I'll really toss the manuals, but they will get tucked away in the downstairs storage rather than burn precious shelf space. LTFM


Desktop Generations

I happened to have all of my desktop computers together and unhooked from everything, so I took a family photo.

It's an interesting progression. My first real desktop (not pictured) was actually a hand-me-down from my family. It was a custom built 486 DX. Whoa baby, was that a smokin machine. It started life with a 300 MB harddrive and was later upgraded by me to a whopping gig for $300. I think I got 300 MB worth of spam today.

Anyway, the Gateway machine served me well. It took me through the backend of college and gave me a workout when I had to move it between school and home. That thing is a metal monster. I actually set it on my toe while arranging the picture and multiple curse words came out of my mouth. I purposedly bought the biggest tower they offered because I just knew I'd want to cram all sorts of hardware upgrades in there. I've been meaning to put a drive in the Gateway and give it to someone deserving for about 3 years now. One of these days...

The Dell was even better. Enough horsepower to pull a beer wagon, wicked stealth styling, and a really crappy flap on the front that hid the worst designed USB ports of all time! I dump on it now, but it was a great computer in its day too. I recently retired that one. I have little use for XP these days at home and it was just burning electricity and contributing to clutter. Plus, it is about a year past due for an OS reinstall. I swear it has malware of some sort on it even though scans show nothing. Every five minutes a program flashes in the task bar and then disappears. I haven't let it sit on the Internet longer than a few minutes in months. The Dell also shows one of the only times I carried forward hardware. I paid a premium for that Plextor burner because it did CD-TEXT. I used to rock a 300 disc CD changer and would dupe all of my CDs with CD-TEXT for that player. Nero had a great disc copy that would add CD-TEXT. That was mucking that I enjoyed because it helped me enjoy my music.

The Grandson in this photo is the Mac mini. The mini was my switcher experiment. If you've read any of my other posts, you know the experiment was a success. I like my mini, but I purposely bought it underpowered to save cash and it just isn't up to the task of being the main computer at home. It is fabulous in the office though. It is tiny, quiet, and not fugly. Notice the lack of silly stickers and a color scheme that doesn't remind you of roller blades.

The decreasing tower size directly reflects my disdain for mucking with my computers and desire to have a computing device that has a little more style. I used to think I had to have the biggest tower because what if I wanted to drop 5 drives inside? Well, I never went past 3 drives, and I've never gone past 2 optical drives. I don't see myself needing to add on a Blu-ray burner anytime soon, so I'd like my new desktop computer to skip the tower completely!

What does your computer lineage look like?