Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

John Edwards On YouTube

John Edwards is running a new type of campaign, or at least reaching out in a new direction.

John Edwards at Gnomedex 2006

In recent years, the candidate that could control the TV media and perform well would hold great sway with the voters. This time around, Edwards is embracing Citizen Media, what with Scoble on the plane with him, and videos on YouTube, the voters are going to get unparalleled access to a candidate.

Just as he promised at Gnomedex.

I just hope the unfettered access doesn't blow up in his face! If it doesn't, maybe we'll get to see the real man.

Christmas Photo Tips

A nice set of photography tips for the upcoming festivities from Digital Photography School

14. Watch Your Aperture

I quite often shoot in Aperture Priority mode on a day like Christmas and am constantly changing the aperture depending upon my subject. For example when taking shots of a Christmas decoration on the tree I'll select a large aperture (a small number like f/2.8) so as to throw the background out of focus, but on a shot taken from the end of the table of everyone sitting down eating I'll choose a small aperture (like f/8 to f/11) so as to have a larger depth of field and keep everyone in focus.

[Tip'O'Hat to Lifehacker for the link.]

“I don't want to believe. I want to know.”

Today is the 10th aniversary of Carl Sagan's death and I felt a need to add to the blog-a-thon that's going on around it.

Carl Sagan, to put it bluntly, was my introduction to the wonderment that is the universe. I remember watching Cosmos as a child and being awed by it.

Following that, I avidly devoured his writings which in turn led me to many other teachers such as Feynman.

I remember reading Contact at seventeen years of age and then, many years later, watching (in my opinion) the marvelous adaptation of it to the big screen.

To put it in cliché, Carl Sagan had a huge impact in my life.

Sail on, my friend.

FIOS Installed - 15 Megabits Of Bliss

Today we had FIOS installed at Casa Del Lacey - fiber into the home.

Verizon put the fiber up on the poles a while ago, but only recently begun actually wiring up homes - I've been checking every week to see when I could get it.

Well, today was my lucky day when three guys in three trucks turned up to perform the install.

The installation basically consists of installing a fiber termination point in your home along with a battery backup. Your phone lines are switched to fiber at the same point, and the battery should give four hours of standby for the fiber driver - there be lasers in that there box…

They then strung Cat5 cable up to my office.

Anyhow, I now have fifteen Megabit down and two megabit up (confirmed by running the speed tests at Speakeasy) for the princely sum of $49.99 a month. A bargin.

I could have opted for the higher speed 30Mbps/5Mbps package at $179.95, but even I have my limits…

I'll tell you what though, the switch from 3Mbps/768K to 15Mps/2Mbps was like crossing a tipping point where browsing the net felt like the servers were actually in my house.

It's that fast.

Power Is Back On

Well, we lost power at about 10pm on Thursday night and it finally came back on at around 3am this morning.

But we're lucky.

We live pretty close to a substation, plus a PSE repair guy lives on our street (though I'm not sure if that had anything to do with it…) and our power is back. But I just nipped out in the car to head to the local safeway which is running on a generator, and nobody else in Kirkland appears to have power.

Yesterday it was out everywhere. Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, you name it.

Our friends Dawn and Darwin in another part of Kirkland don't have power, so they're planning on heading over here with the kids.

But I still feel lucky.

One of our neighbours lost their roof. Another had an Atlantic Cedar come down on their garage, narrowly missing the house. It took their power and phone lines with it.

Last night all four of us humans plus the dog slept in the one bed after cooking dinner and heating water on our barbeque's single burner - handily we had a full tank of propane.

So, we're fine.

And we still feel lucky.

Update: Check out this great post by Joshua Allen. It'll give you a better insight as to what was going on than I can.

Also, we spent most of yesterday listening to NPR (KUOW) and KOMO 1000 on the our portable radio (with handily stock piled batteries), and most of today watching the news after the power came back on.

I tell ya though, listening to the radio all day (and a lot of the night), especially NPR, was a treat.

Anyhow, impressions? Yes, it really was as Joshua described. I was sickened by the dude selling gas at $15 a gallon (a mark down from $25…) I was also briefly worried about running our Christmas decorations once the power came back on in our little oasis in Kirkland, fearing that people driving by might take it as some sort of affront.

Anyhow, Joshua's post sums it up nicely. It makes you wonder what would happen if the shit really hit the fan…

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Now I'm Mad

When I bought the domain steve-lacey.com, I really wanted stevelacey.com but it was owned by a traveling, musician, minister type.

Ho hum, never mind.

Well a couple of months ago the domain lapsed and came up for renewal, I entered the auction for it and got sniped at the last minute.

What's up there now?

Garbage, that's what. A fracking ad-farm. Don't click on anything.

Bastards. (Say that with an English accent please.)

IE7 Annoyance

If you visit this blog with IE7, you'll get a topbar thing that tells you that the site wants to run the “Windows Media Player Extender” ActiveX control.

Since I did no such thing, I have no idea what is causing this. Of course I could voodoo debug the site and disable everything one by one until the culprit reveals itself, but I'd rather have you, dear readers (especially you webdevs out there) tell me what the problem is.

Prize for the winner. Well, maybe not, but you'll get my thanks anyhow :-)

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A Note On Spam

I get so much spam at my main personal email address that I no longer check the spam folder to check for false positives. Over the past month I've received over 7000 spam emails there.

Handily, I'm running Google Apps For Your Domain on steve-lacey.com, and the spam filtering is very good. I'm not just saying that because I work for Google, I'm saying that because it works.

For the first month of using GAFYD, I checked my spam folder every day and had no false positive, while the email that got through the filtering had next to no spam.

That's pretty good in my book.

Today I found out about email from a friend that had been marked as spam, I searched in the spam folder and found it.

But that doesn't mean that I'm going to go back to looking through that folder every day. It takes too much time.

So, if you sent me something and I haven't responded in my normal timely manner, either try again, or just pick up the phone and call me at +1.425.466.9305.

Hackers On The Front Lines

Before entering a building, troops squirt the plastic goo, which can shoot strands about 10 to 12 feet, across the room. If it falls to the ground, no trip wires. If it hangs in the air, they know they have a problem. The wires are otherwise nearly invisible.

In other cases of battlefield improvisation in Iraq, U.S. soldiers have bolted scrap metal to Humvees in what has come to be known as “Hillybilly Armor.” Medics use tampons to plug bullet holes in the wounded until they can be patched up.

Also, soldiers put condoms and rubber bands around their rifle muzzles to keep out sand. And troops have welded old bulletproof windshields to the tops of Humvees to give gunners extra protection. They have dubbed it “Pope's glass” - a reference to the barriers that protect the pontiff.

[Tip'O'Hat to Boing Boing for the link and quote.]

New Lens - Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D AF

On Sunday morning I picked up my Christmas present to myself, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor.

I love the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor (wheee!) lens that I've been using with my Nikon D200 since I purchased it at the beginning of the year, but with it's fastest f/3.5 aperture setting, it can be a tad too slow for the kids in an indoor setting. As someone who hates using flash, this can be a bit of a problem - I've got pretty good at hand holding for up to a half a second

Plus I really love a narrow depth of field.

The new lens delivers on all fronts.

It's very fast, letting in a bunch more light at f/1.8 and 85mm than my other lens can do at f/3.5 and 18mm and the large aperture can generate a very narrow depth of field.

Also, it's a prime lens, no zoom, which forces you to compose by using your feet…

Anyhow, I took it too our friend Deb's holiday party this weekend for some practice, with some great (IMHO) results. It did pretty well with the daughter and her yoghurt fun too…

Yoghurt Fun

I like it. Recommended.

Three Year Old, Web Surfin', Little Dude

Julian loves looking at our pictures on Flickr. We also use the site as a distraction when he's getting uppity.

“Want to see some trains?”

“Yeah!”

And off I go to Flickr for a tag search and some happy browsing with the kid. Normally though, he'll see something and point to it on the screen with his finger.

Another hobby of his is climbing into either his mother's desk chair or mine, and “hitting letter H”. 'H' is his favourite letter.

This evening, however, I was doing some video transcoding on my machine and didn't want him touching anything.

“Go and mess with your mother's computer”, says I.

Up he bounces onto her chair and grabs the mouse and starts pointing, using the mouse and on-screen cursor, at pictures on our Flickr site which happened to be in the browser.

He pointed to one he liked, so I said “make it bigger”.

And he clicked.

I'm astounded.

“Show me a big picture of Julian”, I asked, whereupon he starts using the mousewheel to scroll the window, mouses over to a little picture of him in the sidebar and clicks again.

“It's me!”, he says.

Wow. A combination of observation of us working and playing around on a machine at daycare and it just clicked for him. So to speak.

It also made me realise how important the mousewheel is for a kid. He doesn't have the fine motor-skills yet to reliably to click and drag a scrollbar, but he can sure use a mousewheel to scroll.

Mind you, the dude is three years old and using a laser-precision wireless mouse on a dual-core 64bit AMD desktop, hooked up through an nVidia GeForce 7800 to a 24" LCD flat-panel.

The first machine I played around with to any extent was a KIM-1 when I was seven…

The Boy

'And you try and tell the young people of today that… they won't believe you.'

Lord of War

The movie that ended my last post was Lord of War. It's no secret that I'm a bit of a Nick Cage fan and this film did not disappoint.

Classic Nick Cage that grips you from the beginning and, to pour on the cliches, does not let go until the end.

It is the story of a Ukrainian born arms dealer and follows him through almost every armed conflict you've heard about in the past two decades. There's some pretty gritty scenes that might not be for the squeamish, but it's all handled in a non-gratuitous fashion.

Highly recommended.

Last Week

'Snow Day' by swannman

Code.

Snow.

Icy walk.

Snow.

Sleep.

Ice.

Icy Walk.

Code.

Icy drive.

Snow.

Icy Walk.

Beer.

Sleep.

Drive.

Code.

Sleep.

Drive.

Code.

Sleep.

Drive.

Code.

Movie.

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© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.