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User Journal

Journal Journal: Why am I a MCSE? 1

I dont know if anyone reads this journal, but I posted a little writeup on my blog as to why I have my MCSE, and I thought it might be of interest to others. You can read it here:

Just please try not to slashdot my poor web server ;)

User Journal

Journal Journal: I bought a Blu-Ray player 3

Yes, that's right. Last weekend (not christmas weekend, the one before) I found myself at a Best Buy trying to get a Wii. After camping out for a few hours, I found out I was too far back in the line to get one. However, I'd been there for a while, and the store was about to open anyway, so I thought I'd poke around and see if there was anything interesting.

Well, I'd been drooling over a high-def DVD player for a while now. I've got a DLP projector (1080i capable), and had been playing some HD Xbox games on it, and frankly once you see GOOD HD (not the crap that cable/satellite providers call HD) you just cant go back. I'm also a big fan of the blu-ray format. Say what you will of Sony, but it is the better format as far as the tech goes.

So, when I came across the Samsung Blu-Ray player, my willpower crumbled, and I shelled out the roughly $800 to get one. To go along with it, I bought 3 movies: Talladega Nights, Superman Returns, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I have a DVD collection that contains more than 600 discs, so right now I'm only buying movies that I dont already own on DVD - which limits my options at this point as the back catalog isnt that big just yet.

All I can say is: wow. I am completely and utterly blown away by this system. Watching a movie, even at just 720p - let alone 1080i - completely destroys the "HD" experience you get from Satellite or Cable. Even on larger (100"+) screens, even at close distance, the difference is nothing short of astonishing. Yes, the price is a bit steep, both for the player and the movies, but in my mind it is worth every penny.

I can not make any comparisons to HD-DVD at this point, as I do not have an HD-DVD player yet (and am not certain that I intend to get one). However, I certainly understand what all the fuss is about. I'm not going to tell you to go out and buy a Blu-Ray player. If you dont have an HDTV, it just isnt worth it. However, if you do have one, and it is larger than 30", you would be doing yourself a disservice not to pick up SOME sort of High Def DVD player.

User Journal

Journal Journal: blackberry sync problems

ok guys, I need a hand with this - it is driving me crazy.

Say you have a blackberry (8700c) hooked up to a BES. You also want to sync with 2 calendars, so you turn off wireless sync, and just sync up using the desktop manager.

However, the blackberry (nearly every time it talks to the wireless network) turns wireless sync back on for the calendar, screwing everything up, and reverting the settings on the desktop manager as well.

Any ideas?

User Journal

Journal Journal: YouTube, Brute?

Let's face it, at this point you've heard of YouTube. It became an internet phenomena overnight. I mean, who doesnt love the idea? Sharing any video you want online for free with an unlimited audience? Genius. Ok, so 90% of the content (made up number) is infringing copyright, big deal. YouTube changed the internet, and we all know it. The real question is, has Google changed YouTube? They've already changed the internet once. Will this change it again?

Google paid an astronomical sum for this little website. What in the world made YouTube worth 1.6 billion dollars? The short answer is "nothing" but dont worry, we'll dive into that in more detail. YouTube has eyeballs. It has far more eyeballs, for example, than Google's own video offering. Google makes money off advertising, which needs eyeballs, so at least this makes a little sense. The real key lies elsewhere. Why does YouTube get so many hits? Easy - it's "illegal" content. Bear with me folks, this might get a bit confusing from here.

YouTube's claim to fame was simple: you could get just about any video you wanted on this website. What else could attract so many people? However, they also didnt really make any money off of it. Thankfully, this seemed to have kept anyone from suing them - you cant really get blood from a turnip, after all. The situation couldnt last, but it worked. This was best demonstrated by the various Comedy Central shows and clips that were available. The Colbert Report, in particular, seemed to benefit from YouTube's questionable content. In fact, the show itself mentioned YouTube on multiple occasions. Anime, home videos, you name it - it was there. Plus, you could embed any video you wanted in a website. This meant, with the proliferation of MySpace, that a video posted on YouTube could get even more viewers - even the silliest of home movies had a potential audience of millions.

Google did the only thing they could do to compete: they bought it out. The real question is: was it worth the rather hefty pricetag? First, the issues. Google is going to try to make a profit off of this purchase. This means that copyrighted material opens them up to lawsuits. Google has deep pockets, so they make a very attractive target. Thanks to this, they have to start policing the site. Copyrighted content is getting pulled left and right. But without this content, would YouTube still have the draw that made them worth purchasing? Sure seems like they might be having second thoughts at this point.

Worry not. Google is not stupid, they're just taking a bit of a risk. Remember how I brought up that Comedy Central content that used to be available on the site? Shortly after Google purchased YouTube, it was all pulled. Google worked out a deal with Viacom (the owner of Comedy Central), and now all the content is back online. This is it folks, this is the brilliance that made Google great. If Google can repeat what they did with Viacom, they can really have a moneymaker here. Imagine if similar deals can be made with the other big content providers. Suddenly, YouTube can be THE premier place to watch video content online, legally. How many visits would that drum up? How much ad revenue would that generate? Even assuming (as any sane person would) that a cut of the ad revenue goes back to the providers, Google stands to make an absolute killing here. Sure, they paid 1.6 Billion dollars for this opportunity, but how much do you think they can make here if they do this right? I'd be willing to bet they can make back their initial costs within 18 months, and start making a profit within 2 years.

Did Google overpay for YouTube? I'd say absolutely, and without a doubt. That doesnt make it a bad move. YouTube changed the internet by giving everyone a way to share videos easily online. Google is changing YouTube, and the internet, by showing us all that it's possible to make a profit while doing it - something that seems to be a problem for just about anyone these days. And for those naysayers out there: no, wanting to make a profit doesn't make Google evil, and nothing else they've done here is evil either.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Rio Karma Review

Whats that? Reviewing an MP3 player that isnt made by Apple? I know, it sounds crazy, but its true. Today I'll be reviewing the Rio Karma MP3 player. To start out, lets do a quick rundown of the specifications: 20Gig drive, 15-hour battery (non-removable), USB 2.0, backlit display, and a wide arrange of features and codec support. Ok, so the specs are at least decent, but lets really dive into what it all means.

It has a 20 gig drive. When it was released, it was as big as the biggest iPod. Since then, Apple has released bigger ones, but lets face it - 20 gig is still a lot of music (and no, there is no larger version sadly). This is enough for between 5 and 10 thousand songs, depending on encoding and all that. I've got around 5 thousand on mine, and have about a gig left. Also, like the iPod, this mp3 player uses a hard drive - not flash memory. So bear that in mind - you might not want to go running with this thing.

It has 15 hours of battery life per charge. This is huge. 15 hours will cover even the longest trips without having to stop to recharge. Now, of course, 15 hours is the advertised number. Various features will suck the battery life out of it faster (like heavy visualizations, and playing Ogg files). Also, like all rechargable batteries, it will eventually stop holding a charge and die. Like with Apple, you cant just replace this battery when it goes. That said, I've had mine for probably 8 months now, with no signs of trouble yet.

USB 2.0 is, well, USB 2.0. It's good to have, because it makes transferring the music to and from your Karma a much faster process, but really, EVERYTHING should be USB 2.0 by now, so I dont see it as a big deal - just fulfilling the minimum requirements.

Let's talk about the screen for a minute. It's reasonably large for the size of the device (the screen is a little bigger than a square inch, I'd say), but its not gigantic. It's not color - which should also come as no big surprise. It is backlit. This is a very important thing, because it is backlit WELL. You dont want to leave the light on all the time (as that will drain the batteries), but it comes on automatically whenever you hit a button - so you dont have to worry about fumbling around with it in the dark.

It comes with a docking station. The docking station is pretty good. Its a little big, but it looks nice, and has some very useful features. Obviously, the Karma recharges in its docking station. Thats also how it transfers files between it and the computer. The big bonus is, it has stereo RCA Line Outputs. This means you can easily hook it up to your home sound system (or even hook it into your car stereo for MP3 goodness on-the-go). Heck, its even got an ethernet port!

It also supports pretty much every single codec under the sun (except apple's AAC, of course). This includes FLAC and Ogg Vorbis - a big deal for all the audio geeks out there, as very few other mp3 players have such support. This was the big selling point for me.

But ok, enough of all that. Let's talk about how it is to live with.
The bad stuff:
1. It has no carrying case, belt clip, or anything else like that. You can buy them third party - and I highly reccomend you do.
2. It's not as sexy as the iPod. Its black and grey, which I immensely prefer to the iPod, but its thicker and shorter - and it just doesnt look as cool.
3. The menu system sucks. It takes too long to do ANYTHING with this player. There is a rule of website design "everything should be accessible within 3 clicks of the homepage." I think it needs to apply to mp3 player menus as well.
4. The battery. Come on, I cant replace it if it dies? That just sucks.
5. Memory. No, not storage. If I'm in a playlist, and decide to leave the playlist to go listen to one track that I really want to hear, I want to be able to go back to where I was in the playlist when I'm done.
6. Shortened battery life while playing Ogg encoded songs. DRASTICALLY shortened.

The good stuff:
1. Ogg Vorbis support. Oh how I love Ogg Vorbis. Great sound. Great file size. Great everything. Ogg rocks.
2. Interface. While the menus may suck, the buttons dont. The placement and use of all the buttons just makes sense. Way to go Rio!
3. Gapless playback. Last time I checked, even the iPod doesnt have this feature. This means that there is no pause between playing tracks, so you can hear music the way the artist intended!
4. Battery life. 15 hours, I mean... wow. Thats just GREAT.
5. Playback features. EQ, dynamic playlist generation, visualizations, this can do everything. Just want to listen to the songs you havent listened to in a while? It can do it!

Thoughts and comments:
While the Rio Karma is a hard drive based mp3 player, I've never had any problems with skipping or the like, even while running. That said, I wouldnt reccomend it if you're planning on doing a lot of very active stuff with it. Most people complain about the earbuds it comes with. Personally, I think they're just fine. However, its easy enough to get better ones. When I bought mine, I got a refurbished one. This allowed me to get it much cheaper than an iPod would have been. That said, they do seem to run for about the same price, and with the current line of iPods out there, you will get more bang for your buck with one of those as opposed to the Karma. I, however, would still take a Karma over a new iPod. The Karma simply has the features I want, and the iPod does not.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Breaking into editing for a tech site? 5

I'm currently working in a Help Desk - probably like most of the other readers here. Lately, I've decided I want more. What do I want? Well, I've been thinking about trying to get into writing for a tech site like Anandtech, or Engadget, or even Slashdot. I'm not completely inexperienced. I've written some articles for online magazines like zZine and done hardware reviews for CAAHP. But that was all just for free/fun. How does one actually break into this sort of field without on-resume experience? It seems like a natural progression for those of us techies with a reasonable command of the English language, but there dont seem to be a lot of resources to help. What do my fellow slashdotters think?
User Journal

Journal Journal: I know I saw a slashdot article on this but I cant find it!

I dont know if anyone else remembers this... a while back there was a slashdot story on a site that had music/bands and you could buy music for use in videos/etc...

I knew when I read it that I should've bookmarked the site, but alas I did not, and now I cannot find it anywhere. Any other slashdotters out there remember the story, and maybe remember a link?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Is this normal? (changing jobs) 2

This is going to be a bit unusual for one of my journal posts here, but oh well.

I had a job interview yesterday. I wasnt REALLY looking for something else, but I hate the area I live in (and its really expensive), and I dont particularly like my job (though I enjoy the people and environment).

It is more or less my dream job - it gets me back into systems administration instead of just being a VTC puke. It is in a gorgeous area, and a cheaper one too, and it comes with a HUGE raise.

They offered me the job. Now, obviously, I took it. My 2 weeks notice goes in Monday probably. My current employer is aware, and unhappy. Why? He doesnt want me to leave. He really tried hard to get me to stay, and you know what? I feel bad about that. I know, I'm a DOD contractor, I'm supposed to be a total mercenary, but I just dont work that way. I am grateful to the company for giving me a job and a paycheck, and I'm sorry to be leaving them.

And now, of course, I'm anxious. Job transitions are hard. What if I dont like the job? The pay system is different and I'll be going a few weeks without a pay check, will I be ok? Are we going to move (that would give my wife a horrible commute, but we could get a larger and nicer place), and if so, when? Did I make the right decision?

God I hate uncertainty

User Journal

Journal Journal: Front Row playback of networked DivX files?

This is for all the Mac folks out there. For a while now, I've had a mythtv setup for playing back all my DVDs (ripped to HD and converted to DivX). The files all live on another (windows) computer on the network. This was easy and transparent and worked wonderfully. I just picked up one of the new Mac Minis, and I want to do pretty much the same thing, but with its Front Row software. Now, I'll admit, I'm new to OSX, so I dont really know what I'm doing, but I havent been able to make it work. Can it be done? If so, how?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Confessions of a Data Junkie 1

Have you ever felt that just maybe you're addicted to data? Well, you're not the only one. In this article, I reveal my own battle with the bit-monkey on my back. The real question is: is data addiction really such a bad thing?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Scary Movie 4 Review

The wife and I saw Scary Movie 4 over the weekend, and I finally got around to writing up a review.

The short of it is: its funny - go see it.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Jeremy Clarkson agrees with me!

Right after my car rant, Jeremy Clarkson (of Top Gear fame) wrote an article saying exactly what I did! (only, you know, much longer, and better)

User Journal

Journal Journal: Learning Chinese (Mandarin) with Rosetta Stone?

So, with the recent Ask Slashdot about learning Japanese, it got me thinking. I've always wanted to learn Chinese (Mandarin). I've always been interested in Chinese culture, and I'm a kung fu nut anyhow. I'll never take myself to a class, it just wont happen, so I more or less assumed I was doomed. However, I heard/saw/read lots of rave reviews about the Rosetta Stone software. So, I guess I'm wondering:
does it really work?
has anyone used it for Mandarin?
how good is it?

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