Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

Game Tech Conference

Tomorrow I'm off to the Game Tech Conference in San Francisco. Should be fun. This conference used to go by other names including the Hard Core Game Developers Conference. I went to that one in 1999 which had a very high SN ratio, so I'm looking forward to this one.

Hopefully the hotel will have wifi, and I'll blog from there...

Some good people speaking on some interesting topics.

Thanksgiving Day

Shortly after I arrived in the States, I was invited by a couple I met, Dawn and Darwin, to their Thanksgiving dinner. I've been going every year.

They are great friends. I never felt so welcome into this country as that day when they invited me over. Back then it was a bunch of guys, gals and beer, no kids. Now there are a whole bunch of kids there, and it was the first Thanksgiving for their daughter, Gabriella. Our friend Samantha was one of those at the dinner. Her partner Charles is currently serving in Iraq and safe - apparently eating Turkey this morning in Bagdahd.

This year of course, Julian was ill. So I popped over to Dawn and Darwin's for an hour or so whilst Nabila looked after Julian. I brought back a great take-out plate for Nabila. A little later, Julian started eating, but then promptly threw up whereupon he instantly felt better... It's 9pm, way past Julian's bedtime, but as he's been sleeping all day he's wide awake and mischievous. He's sitting on my lap now destroying a joystick power supply.

So it all turned out well ;-) Julian is having fun and my wife is snoozing after pampering him all day, and I'm thankful for that - amongst many other things.

Thanks USA, for this great day.

Photo Albums

Access to most of the photo albums now requires a password. In fact, you won't even see them in the album listing unless you login.

If I know you, please email me for a password.

Listening To “The Source Code”

I was listening to Adam Curry's latest Source Code this afternoon in the car when he talks about his move to in the UK. He's keeping where he lives a secret, but he mentions that he lives by the "Down's". Cool! That means that he's living within 25 or so miles from where I grew up.

Btw, Adam, why did you move to the UK? I left there in '97, and every time I go back I get reminded how crowded and screwed up the place has become. It's not the place I left.

On the other hand, Adam talks about the cool tech that is prevalent there now. The UK does have it's good points...

Anyhow, next time I'm back in the UK visiting the parents, how about a geek beer?

Video Calls Via Cellphones

When I picked up my SMT5600 I thought "Yey! We've finally caught up with Europe and Japan!" Then I find myself perusing a former College friend's blog and click on a link for 3 in the UK. (Btw, why are company names always cooler outside the States?). Check out their offerings. Very cool.

Looking at their coverage map map-app, the middle-of-nowhere village (Hassocks) that I grew up in has full coverage. 3G services including video calls...

Will we ever catch up? Or is the US always destined to be an also-ran in the arena of mobile tech?

iPod My BMW, Podcatching On The Road?

Yesterday my car went in for a service, so I took the opportunity to get the iPod interface installed. It works just as advertised, with the 5 playlists named BMW[1-5].* showing up effectively as CDs and pausing when the car is switched off just like a regular CD player.

I had been using an FM transmitter, but there is no single station that I can tune it too that works for my entire journey to work - I'm forever changing the frequency on the trasmitter and the car. And that is just plain dangerous. Plus is sounds awful with all the bleedthough from other stations.

It would have been nice to get one of the cool third party solutions that adds a head unit that displays tag information, but I really didn't want a new head unit that looks out of place. So I just went for the first party solution.

My only niggle now is that my music library is at home, and I sync it every night (with iPodder downloading the new podcasts). I use firewire there. At work and on the road, I can't change the playlists or download new content using iTunes on my laptop, because as far as I can figure out only one instance of iTunes can work with the iPod. I can't mess with the playlists from my laptop. This is very annoying as I'll be at a conference in a couple of weeks and want to download new podcasts to the iPod while I'm there.

So yesterday I tried ephPod with the iPod connected to my laptop via USB. This allowed me to edit playlists and create news ones, but as soon as I docked the iPod when I got back home, iTunes decided to re-download my entire music library because the iPod was "suspect"! That took ages (20 GB of music).

What gives?

Going Mobile

I now provide a mobile friendly(er) version of my blog at /mobile.shtml. That was pretty easy - you gotta love Movable Type. You'll get sent there if you come to my site with the appropriate user agent.

Looks cool on my shiny new Smartphone anyhow...

New Phone

Audiovox SMT 5600

I bought the new Audiovox SMT 5600. In fact, I bought two. One for my wife, and one for me.

I've been waiting for so long for the right 'phone to come along - a few years ago I got one of the first 'phones with a colour screen, but was disappointed and then I decided to just settle with it.

The Audiovox changed all that.

It has been incredibly popular internally here at Microsoft, and I'm sure you've seen Scoble rave about it. It just works. It does everything right.

The only thing is that I'd been really happy with Verizon as my carrier - the coverage, as they say, is just amazing. When I was in Montana earlier this year fishing with my buddies, I was the only one that had any coverage. But, unfortunately, they'd always been lagging with the new 'phone tech. So on Friday I switched to AT&T (the day before their accounting switch over to Cingular). The phone number port worked perfectly.

Now I just have to produce a Smartphone friendly front-end to my website...

I can't say enough good things about this 'phone. Go buy one.

Gack, Cough, Splutter

Ick. Sick as a dog today, horrible, phlegmy, scratchy throat. Julian had something similar yesterday, so I bet he picked it up at daycare and, like the dutiful son he is, promptly passed it on to me.

No worries. After a bunch of rest today I feel mostly better.

At least I got to almost finishing up the CD artwork for the band's latest opus.

Speaking of the CD, I was checking out mastering software today. Not the stuff that burns the disc, but software that'll put the final eq and compression on the mixed tracks. So far the software from T-Racks looks favourite. I downloaded the demo and it really brought the mix out to the fore. Recommended. I think we'll use it.

T-Racks could be useful for podcast production too, in order to add the final zip to the audio.

I'm really looking forward to getting this CD wrapped up. It's dragged on for far too long, what with mixing issues (studio getting the tracks mixed up), and general time hassles.

Too Funny

Browsing through my referer log, I noticed that I'd been getting a few referers from a Portuguese BMW forum.

Someone there ripped off the pictures of my M3, and passed it off as his own! What was amusing is that he edited the photos to blank out the license plate... But my car has no front license plate!

Using google's translation tool to translate (badly) the posts, it looks like others on the forum figured out that he was lying and started flaming him.

Very amusing!

Got My Car Back

Yesterday I got my car back from R&R Automotive in Bellevue, three weeks after the accident. I'll tell you what, they did a fantastic job - the car looks wonderful, and handily all those rock chip marks I picked up a few days after taking delivery of the car are now gone! Cool.

Next step is to get the BMW/iPod interface installed.

Talking of the iPod, the latest version of iPodder (the Podcast downloader) is a vast improvement over the last one. Last night it downloaded the latest "Dawn And Drew" show - including the album art which showed up automatically on the iPod. It's a little thing, but it gave me an "Oh, that's cool" moment.

In a "that's uncool" moment though, how come the iTunes UI becomes unresponsive when it's talking to the iPod. Come on folks, it's not that hard to get right.

Two Words

Utter disbelief.

How on earth did Bush win? I was half expecting a landslide victory for Kerry of the '97 UK election variety, but I guess that was not to be.

Everyone now seems to be into the post-election analysis, discussing what went wrong, etc... I'll sum it up - Middle America just doesn't get it.

We are all, but mostly our kids, going to pay dearly for this.


Julian In My Office

Gotta love Halloween. To be honest, this is the first time I've really participated (being an import from the UK, I've never 'trick or treat'ed before), but with Julian here now it was fun!

Friday was 'trick or treat'ing round the offices here at Microsoft, then a Halloween party on Saturday at Deb's (where the band played, yeah!)

On Sunday all the kids (and parents) came round to our place and we did the business round our neighbourhood.

A fine tradition!

Pictures from the three days are over in the gallery.

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.