Monday, May 12, 2008

Too busy to post?

Yeah, the big move, the new job, the househunting... And a new blog, of course. All have taking up a lot of my time - and taken me away from being able to post here.

And I have great new stories to tell you, too: hotel electronic key cards, my wife's GPS navigation system, my hand-held GPS, my new work technology.... But I'm going to have to put this blog on hold for now until things settle down I think. Same goes with my website, which needs updating in a serious way since the job and residency changes....

Could this be the way it begins? I get to "busy" to do about this stuff? Now, in ten years, will I realize I've been too busy for so long that I'm out of the loop? Maybe I've reached my adult-life tipping point...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Long time, no post: moving via internet

Yeah, long time no post. We're in the middle of a move, though. Not much going on there except I've been frustrated on multiple occasions with websites that promise easy interaction and reservation / customer service capabilities (I'm looking squarely in your direction, PODS and uHaul). Instead, they simply ask you to fill out a lengthy form and then tell you to call the 1-800 number. Or, better yet, how about the uHaul customer service chat? After taking the time to log in, wait in line to chat with someone, and then finally sending over your question.... you literally get a LIVE CUSTOMER SERVICE PERSON telling you to call the 1-800 number to talk to another LIVE PERSON. Wha?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tracking visitors and blog hits: Feedburner and Google Analytics

With nearly 50 posts on my blog, I got to wondering if anyone was actually looking at it. Not that that is the point - the point is simply to get into the practice of using Web 2.0 applications and, like the subtitle says, "keep up with new technology and the evolving web." But still, it'd be interesting to know, right? And, investigating how to do it is a learning experience in itself.

After a bit of searching around, I put my blog into Feedburner (another Google aquisition). While I was at it, I also added a bit of HTML code to my pages so they can be tracked by Google Analytics. My GoDaddy hosting already supplies decent tracking and report stats, so I don't know how useful that will be, but I signed up for it anyway to see if it would provide any additional information.

Since registering with Feedburner, by the way, my Blog has one hit (and I think that was me).

Follow me on Twitter!

My sister turned me on to Twitter several months ago, but I found it to be pretty dumb and impossibly difficult to update. But just a week or so ago, my old buddy Mike Bush started using it. And then I read that it was possibly being hailed as "The next Facebook." Looks like sis was way ahead of the curve after all.

So, in keeping with the goal stated up there at the top of my Blog, I'm going to start updating my Twitter feed. I'm even delving (yes, delving) into the world of texting (you can update your Twitter feed via text messages). This is definitely a place I'm lacking, anyway, so I'm kinda getting into two things at once. I thought email from my phone was close to texting, but yesterday I read an article in the Washington Post Magazine about evolving technology that included a quote from a teen: "Yeah, I still use email if I'm trying to send a message to an old person, like my teacher or my Uncle." Ouch.

Texting is the way to do it, or, even more current, "broadcast texting" using something like Twitter. So, I suppose in some ways, I'm leaping over "regular" texting and getting right to the new thing.

I added the Twitter app to my Facebook page, too. Follow me on Twitter!

More on converting video for iTunes

I tried to convert one of my own videos for iTunes, but it didn't work. I exported it as MPEG4, which is what I thought it needed to be, but it wouldn't go. I'm trying again today. I found a couple good resources for getting things right - this article from iLounge, and of course, the iPod Nano technical specifications page at Apple (which is what I was going by the last time and it didn't work). We'll see!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

How to crash your computer with iTunes

I've had my iPod for a week now, and yesterday I went into iTunes again to update my podcasts, check on my music, and see if I could find a couple more things to pull in for my iPod. Since I had only used up about half of the 8 GB capacity, I figured this would be no big deal.

I subscribed to two more podcasts, Movies You Should See and NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Then, I went ahead and told iTunes to "GET" a bunch of other episodes of some of the other podcasts I had subscribed to. This should fill up my iPod nicely, I reasoned, and I let the computer chug away at downloading and went to bed.

Well, sometime the next day, my wife yells at me from the living room, "What did you do to the computer?!" Turns out I had totally filled up our little 4-year old PC to its digital gills with data, and it had something like 140K left on the hard drive. Oops.

Well, being the technological brains in the family, she sits down and fixes the whole thing, moves stuff around, and generally gives me a mini-tutorial about how to use iTunes (and not make duplicates of all my podcasts and not accidentally delete all my music - two things I recently did).

So, since we're not quite ready to commit to a whole new computer yet (I think a beefy iMac is going to be the '08 family Christmas present), we're headed off to CostCo on Monday afternoon to get a big external media drive. The plan is to transfer all of our music and everything iTunes is pointing at over to our new drive (500 GB for $129 says the website). That should hold all the video, movies, music, podcasts and whatever we want. And plenty of room to grow (hopefully).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Arlington County is a YouTube Partner!

Well, it all seems kinda shady like a back room deal or something, but I got an email from tha Virginia State Government person today telling me that Arlington County's YouTube account had been upgraded to "Partner" status. I didn't even have do anything since my previous posting where I said I would apply - I guess she just emailed her contact at YouTube and got it done for me. That's great, but at the same time it seems weird that it works that way.

So, now I'm working to design the banner and logos and such that I can add to our page - there's a new section on the Account Management page for "Branding Options." Hopefully I can get something thrown together and put up there soon. The other awesome benefit (in addition to that auto-play that started this whole thing, of course) of being a partner is an increase in the max upload. As a partner, I'm still limited to 1044 MB per video, but there isn't a time restriction.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Joining the iPod club

Hooha! I got an iPod for my birthday! I was hinting, but it was still a surprise. It's a green 3rd generation 8 Gig iPod Nano. The third gen nanos have video, too!

I've already gotten into iTunes and pulled in all my ripped CDs. I also subscribed to a bunch of podcasts (some favorites that I was simply pulling off YouTube, some I had downloaded directly from their host websites).

My sister got me an iTunes gift card, too, so I was able to buy some songs I found out about from Pandora (there's only one MC Chris song on iTunes!! Lame!) I also pulled in two Mitch Hedberg Comedy Central tv specials. I've yet to get my own videos on there - that's something I'd like to do, and I'll updates here as I figure that out.

But, overall, I'm totally digging my iPod. I'm finding iTunes and syncing up my iPod to be an easier process then I thought it would be, and I have no complaints about the click-wheel or using the iPod interface (two things I've heard other people complain about). I am definitely seeing how one could get lured into the "listen to my iPod everywhere all the time" thing - it's awesome having so much music so easily available in such high quality in such a small package. I can't believe I actually worked out in the garden last summer with a Sony DiscMan clipped onto my belt...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Using Labels in Blogger

I just realized that all of my tags (or labels as Blogger calls them) weren't working. The labels are the "key words" that appear below each post, which will basically help you, the reader, browse my posts by subject. Anyway, I was just typing them in when I would post - but apparently they need to be separated by a comma.... Ugh, so now I need to go back through all my posts to fix them. Seems stupid that it wouldn't be smart enough to separate them by itself or at least prompt the user a little better as to the preferred format.

YouTube Partners

So, I've found out a lot more about the whole YouTube Partners thing. Apparently getting the extra features a partnership can provide can be as simple as applying to be a partner! This doesn't seem to be heavily advertised by YouTube, but there are instructions and loads of YouTube video bloggers talking about it, like this guy.

I think Arlington County should qualify - I've uploaded about 100 videos and we generate original content on a regular basis that is viewed by thousands (well, cumulatively maybe). I'll go through the application and we'll see! Heck, my personal YouTube account gets hits in the thousands, too, so maybe I'll see if I can be a partner on that side, too...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The YouTube "in crowd"

I found out that the state (er, Commonwealth) of Virginia signed up and has started posting videos.

They don't exactly have the whole thing figured out yet it seems, as some of their videos are unsynched and aren't quite YouTube "friendly," but whatever. The thing that really struck me was how when you go to their channel page, the main video plays automatically. Funny thing is, I was just talking to John Lisle, the PIO of Arlington's Police Department about this exact thing - the ACPD has a YouTube page of their own and John was asking me about how to make the video on the channel page play automatically (like the VA state channel). I didn't think it was possible, but now that I saw the VA state page doing it, I knew there was something to what John had said.

As any good internet researcher does, I turned to Google. I typed in "auto-play video on youtube channel page." This got me some good hits and basically what I learned is this: YouTube will work with celebrities, large companies, politicians and any other big powerful organization and give them a "super" page that can have its own fancy background, an auto-play video, and a couple other features. It's not something mentioned on YouTube's pages, in any of the account settings, or even in their help. Interesting....

So, I sent a friendly message to the VA state folks (linky on their channel page, of course). I offered a suggestion about encoding their video to help with the synch issue and inquired about the auto-play video... all in the interest of inter-governmental partnerships, etc...

I got a reply back, and long story short it is indeed a big Google who-you-know thing - the whole VA YouTube thing came out of a meeting between Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Governor Tim Kaine. Within two days, the VA YouTube page launched.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Goozex is a video game trading site I discovered recently after yet another frustrating craigslist experience had me down on the whole idea of trading video games with people... Seems interesting. I've signed up and put my "library" of games (actually just three games I don't really want anymore anyway) out for trading. But I don't need to explain how it works. You can read it for yourself.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My kid's online... I have no idea how that works.

So I was talking to someone and they mentioned their 9 year old's DS and how he had lost a piece to it. I asked if he lost the stylus, intending to suggest a good replacement brand.

"The what?" she replied.

"The little pen thing," I explained.

"Oh, I don't know what it does. I have no idea how it works." And the conversation ended.

And that's kinda okay, I guess, but then later on I overheard the same person talking about their son to someone else. "Oh, yeah, he connects it to the computer and plays games on there with his friends."

Wow, so you don't know how your 9 year old's game works, yet he's going online to play Pokemon with strangers? Awesome.

Link to my early post about buying a Nintendo DS

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sony XD Cams and proxy video possibilities

So we got our new Sony XD cameras in at work (HD, woo-hoo!), along with new decks and lots of other fun new gear. Looking at the gear and thinking about what other bits 'n' pieces we might need, I suggested we get some big flash drives.

The idea that I had was that we could shoot on the XD cams and use the proxy video to do some cuts-only editing with the free Sony software that comes with the cameras (and is available online). The proxy video (low-res versions of the video files that are stored on the Blu-Ray discs that the camera records to) would fit nicely on a big drive, and then we could do some editing at home on our personal computers.

I was thinking specifically about some of our simpler programs and promo stuff, like the Adopt-A-Pet show. That show is mostly cuts-only, with a layer of graphics put on top for lower thirds and transitions. It'd be easy to do the first edit at home, bring in the EDL (edit decision list) and the proxy video, and then have our AVIDs at work reconcile the full-res video and build out the HD timeline. Basically, I'm hoping we'll have some tele-commuting capability as a result of having these new cameras. Not so much consumer technology, which is more the topic for this blog, but it's cutting-edge stuff just the same. Cool!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hacking the Nintendo DS

My buddy Dave came by last night and we started talking about my wife's new DS.

Anyway, he reminded me about how I had asked about getting cards for a Nintendo DS that is pre-loaded with games and we set to work together to discover exactly what and how that was possible. Within a couple of searches we found out most of what we would need to do: Get the R4 file transfer card. Then go to a site like NDS-Roms and download whatever game you want.

Very interesting indeed. But are ROMs legal? How does that side of things work? They are so prevalent and easily available (just type in Super Mario Bros. into Google and you can play it online) so could they really be "wrong?"

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New GPS receiver

My old handheld GPS, a Garmin Geko 101, stopped working (okay, so I left it in my pocket and it got washed, but the point is it stopped working). So, I spent some of my saved up Christmas money and bought a new one: a Garmin eTrex Summit. I bought it from for $175 or so.

I'll be able to do all kinds of wacky stuff with it, since it has connectivity that my old one never did - I should be able to download routes, maps, and all kinds of wacky fun stuff from (if you don't know about geocaching, check it out - it's way fun!)

Skype is the future!

So our microphone arrived for our home PC and the wife got it hooked up yesterday. So this morning, instead of our usual phone call, I got a ring on my work computer - and I got to wish the family a good morning face to face! Easy! And it's very fun when folks walk by my office - "oops, sorry, didn't realize you were on the ph- What!? Are you doing video chat? Wow, that is awesome."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More Skype

So I've installed Skype on my PC here at work and it's working like a charm. Trouble is, I can't run my webcam on at the same time as I'm doing video chat with Skype. You'd think that software would be smart enough to split the signal or whatever. So, I think this will create a problem of some sort, since I will be using the webcam more for Skype now and the website won't have a feed. I think I might change the "webcam" page of to a simple invitation for folks to call me on Skype... but that's not really the same as the anonymous looking that a webcam allows...

Anyway, Skype works great, and I even got a microphone working, too. So now I can video chat with my friend down the hall (who is in reality so close I could simply shout, but that's not the point!).

My wife also downloaded Skype and installed it on our home PC. Her webcam is working, too, so now we can see each other with a much much better frame rate then we could using Yahoo! Messenger. I need to get a microphone hooked up at home, still, though. It's a little cumbersome to use, but overall, I say "Yay, Skype!"

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Skype & video chat

Back when we were doing our podcast and we were taking calls through the phone, we would make fun of other podcasts that were using Skype to conduct their on-air interviews because of the marked difference in audio quality. But, at the same time, I had never myself tried Skype, so in a way, we were using "old" tech on our show, since our production process was more from what we know - traditional on-air radio. In fact, we didn't even record the show on a computer - we recorded it directly to CD and then uploaded it.

Anyway, my buddy at work is from Great Britain and his friend over in England has turned him on to Skype as a fun and free way to keep in touch with his ol' mates back home. He was telling me about it and explaining how one of his more 'net-savvy pals was even doing video chat. We went into his office, and there his friend was, chatting away like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, in alarmingly clear and quick video. It looked way better then my webcam can produce over Yahoo! Messenger.

So of course, I realized that here was another thing to try to tackle. Together, we set to work trying to get a camera hooked up on my co-worker's PC so we could video-phone back to his friend. We played around with trying to get a Canon digital still camera and a small DVCam to perform as a webcam for a half-hour or so before giving up.

But I was truly impressed with the frame-rate of Skype's video chat... Much better then what I've seen using AIM or Messenger... Maybe it's time for me to switch...