Free: DVD, CD cases

July 30th, 2008, 12:19 am PST by Greg

We have consolidated our DVD and CD collections into storage binders. That leaves us with a bunch of cases:

  • single DVD cases
  • double DVD cases
  • thin DVD cases (half-width cases that are used for box sets)
  • CD jewel cases

We have many of each of these. Anybody want some?

Watch the blog in the next week or two for much more stuff we want to get rid of. I’ll post here before Craigslist if any of you want anything.

Need an Apartment?

July 28th, 2008, 10:49 am PST by Greg

As should be obvious to anyone reading this blog, Kat and I are preparing to move to a shiny new place just down the road. There are really only two downsides to this move: (1) we have to move, (2) we are leaving our landlady.

I have blogged about our landlady before: she is a nice old lady from Hong Kong. This house is about her only tangible asset and our rent is a big chunk of her income. I feel bad leaving her to find somebody else. So, I don’t intend to…

Who needs a new place?

It’s a ground-floor suite. Two bedrooms, one bath, decent living room, kitchen, shared laundry. $900/mo + utilities. Maybe 1000 sq ft or so. Entrance through the garage, which isn’t great, but isn’t a big deal either. (It means a good spot to store a bike if nothing else.)

North Burnaby at Albert and Madison. I’m obviously a big fan of the neighbourhood, otherwise we’d be moving more than a block away. Close to a bunch of restaurants, Safeway, 135 stop (25 minutes to SFU Burnaby by bus), Brentwood Mall, bike/hiking paths, …

I took a bunch of pictures when I was moving in two years ago. We haven’t exactly trashed the place, so it will look about the same.

I’d make a killer deal on any furniture that we aren’t taking with us (my initial bargaining position: $0). That seems to include a buffet/island/chopping block thing in the kitchen, a TV stand, DVD shelf, and a loveseat. A few little shelves might stay too.

Remember my affection for the landlady: no loud parties, no trashing the place, no keeping her up at night. You’ll have me to deal with if you do.

Update: Move in mid-August, as soon as we’re out. I’ll pick up that first part-month rent.

OMG! OMG! OMG! We might have found a new place to live!!! :D

July 22nd, 2008, 10:15 pm PST by Kat

So since I’ve been back, I’ve been looking for a new place for us to live. The place we’re in is fine, but it’s a little small, and we’re getting to that point in our lives where we’d like to live somewhere a little nicer. The roadblock has been that we ideally want to stay in the same area. When I say “the same area“, what I mean is the two block by five block area surrounded by Albert on the north, Pender on the south, Willingdon on the east, and MacDonald on the west. We were hoping to find a new-ish townhome or duplex or something like that. This definitely limited our options, and I must say, I was starting to get discouraged. There were countless “brand new” condo units at SFU and near Brentwood, but those places aren’t Burnaby Heights.

However, today, I found it. The place where I REALLY want us to live until we get our own place. I’m so excited!

THE TRAMONTO

Here is the craigslist ad:  http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/apa/765760922.html

We have an appointment to meet with the landlady tomorrow evening. I’m SO excited!! I think the unit we’re looking at is floor plan F. It has a dishwasher, a wine fridge, a washer and dryer, and a deck where we can put a grill! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!! The landlady sounds nice and seemed quite happy to hear that it would just be the two of us living in her apartment and not “four people” or “a couple with 3 children”. Did I mention that I’m excited?

So, cross your fingers that she’ll like us and let us live there!

Update by Greg: Kat’s looking at it tomorrow night while I’m teaching.  My instructions to her: “I don’t care if it smells like cheese, I want to live there.”

Update by Kat: I saw it. I loved it. I put a deposit down!!!! 🙂 We will be living at the Tramonto in August! 😀 Oh, and I was initially wrong. The unit is floor plan C, which means that it’s on the north side of the building, and therefore quite quiet. The deck also has gas plumbing for a grill. 😀

Damn you Costco!

July 20th, 2008, 10:11 pm PST by Greg

Costco has always been my connection for garden burgers. They sold sleeves of about 25 of them, and there was always one in my freezer. There have been many times they kept me alive, particularly in the two lost years while Kat was in NC.

In my last three visits to three different Costcos, they haven’t had any. From this, I conclude that Costco has stopped selling garden burgers.

This is not acceptable, and could be a dealbreaker on my (already facultative) vegetarianism. Does anybody know where I can get a big box o’ veggie burgers, thus avoiding colon cancer and morbid obesity?

My life is in your hands. Please help.

Bored tonight?

July 17th, 2008, 5:54 pm PST by Greg

There’s a bike race around my neighbourhood tonight if you’re bored. I was here for it last year: it’s quite cool to see if you have a few minutes.

Gaming

July 10th, 2008, 4:33 pm PST by Greg

With my study leave coming up, I expect to have more free time on my hands. Don’t worry, watchers of the public purse: I do have a bunch of work stuff to do over the year, but that’s another blog post.

I think I need to reacquaint myself with PC gaming. I have a (slightly) old Athlon 64 system that isn’t actually being used right now with 1 GB RAM and 320 GB of hard drive. I figure this can be turned into a reasonable gaming rig with a minimal investment.

I would probably drop in a new processor (like the Athlon 64 X2 5400+) and new video card (perhaps an ASUS N7600GS). That would be enough to run the kind of games I’m actually interested in: Portal, Spore, SimCity Societies, Civilization IV. I likes me a good god-game. I really don’t care much about online/multiplayer gaming: I don’t need some 14 year old kid using the word “pwn” at me in my leisure time.

I’d need to get another keyboard and mouse, since USB+DVI KVM switches are unpleasantly expensive. (It’s probably harder to do the switching for USB than old PS2 connections. Don’t forget about buying cables with those too.) I can hook up to the VGA input on my LCD and switch the display that way.

After about $250, I should be ready to go. I can get a Windows XP license from work as long as I promise that it has something to do with teaching (which it undoubtedly will, regardless of the initial plan).

Why I Hate my iPod Touch (and you shouldn’t buy an iPhone)

July 8th, 2008, 8:08 pm PST by Greg

I have ad an iPod Touch since Xmas. As most of you know, it’s pretty much a first gen iPhone without the phone part. I actually hate it a little bit: allow me to summarize.

User Interface

Yes, I know this device is sold as having god’s-own user interface. I disagree. The interface is very pretty, but not actually as functional as it could be.

Part of the problem might be that I use my iPod primarily as a music player. It’s crazy I know, but what I mostly want to do with my digital music player is play music. The problem is that the interface of the music player actually sucks a little.

The only way I can think to illustrate this is by comparing what can be done in the various player modes it has. You can hold the thing vertically so it displays in portrait mode, horizontally for landscape mode, or double-click the menu button when it’s locked to bring up some controls there. Here is a summary of what you can do in each mode:

iPod Touch Interface Capabilities
Feature Portrait Landscape Locked
Next song (shuffle) Y Y
Next artist/album Y
Adjust volume Y Y
Move within song Y
Pause/Play Y Y Y
Coverflow UI Y

This is the kind of inconsistency that should make anybody who has taken a usability course cringe. It means I have to hold my device in a certain way to actually use it the way I want.

In all cases, most of the device’s big, luxurious screen is taken up displaying information I don’t care about in the slightest: the cover art (or background when locked). Even if I had all of the cover art there (it seems to be displayed only for songs purchased from iTunes: songs I have ripped and have perfectly good metadata for have nothing), I don’t want to look at it. Coverflow is sexy to be sure, but it’s not actually displaying anything useful to me. Think of all the useful information that could be there if they had chosen function over form. Or the buttons to touch could have been bigger and easier to hit.

Lock-in

As I mentioned earlier, Apple’s hamfisted attempts at vendor-lockin are a big deal for me.

First is the locking of the device itself: no software can be installed on this device that has really cool UI and portable computing potential. In order to install your own software, you either have to be a registered developer (I think) or do a jailbreak and risk Apple bricking your phone (or committing a criminal act if C-61 passes). [UPDATE 07/10: I’m reminded by an Apple announcement that by this I mean “unapproved software” in this paragraph.]

This is just unacceptable stupidity: on the Touch, there’s no conceivable reason to not have designed the OS to isolate applications from each other (so a junky app can’t crash the whole device), and then allowing installation. For the iPhone, the additional argument of junking up the carrier’s network is also used and is also crap: other phones allow software installation and the mobile networks haven’t been brought to their knees.

Now we move from this (which is annoying and shortsighted) to Apple’s cartoonishly evil behaviour: cryptographically signing the song databases. This makes it effectively impossible to use any software other than iTunes to put music on the device (or sync contacts, calendar, etc.).

I don’t have a Windows or Mac computer easily accessible, so here’s how I sync music to my iPod: (1) take my work laptop home and boot into Windows; (2) install iTunes if it’s not there already; (3) connect it to my network and make sure the music is being shared properly from my main computer; (4) import that music into iTunes; (5) connect the iPod and pray that it actually works. This seems to actually happen about as often as I visit the dentist, and it’s about as pleasurable.

Backlight

This is a small niggle, but the backlight on the display doesn’t turn off when playing music. On my old 4th generation iPod, the backlight would go off after 10 seconds or so to save power. On the Touch, it sits there draining battery until I lock the screen.

Voice/Data Plans

This doesn’t really have anything to do with my iPod, but it is relevant to iPhones. There has been great furore over the plans that Rogers has introduced to go with the iPhone.

On this point, however, I have no issue. Unlike many of the petition signers, when the plans were announced, I did not weep openly or consider self-immolating in front of a Rogers kiosk.

Yes, the Rogers plans are worse than the plans from AT&T in the US. But if my memory and this chart are correct, they are an order of magnitude better than previous data plans. I’ll take that as a win for Canadian wireless-fu, and leave it there.

And they are not offering unlimited data plans. I agree wholeheartedly with Allen on this one: there are no unlimited plans anywhere, so get over it.

Anyway…

Yeah, the iPhone is pretty, but I don’t think it’s worth trampling your own mother in the crowd to get one… or even paying the sticker price.

I’ve said before that I am quite enamoured with my Blackberry. I also considered the HTC Touch but obviously haven’t used it enough to give a good review.

And, there’s so much shake-up on the way for the handset makers that it might be worth waiting: Google’s Android OS, the OpenMoku phone shipping, the LiMo Foundation. All good news for people that actually think they should be in control of the device that they bought.

Missed opportunity

July 2nd, 2008, 9:34 pm PST by Greg

In my 470 lecture today, I was making comment about MySpace. To point out that I wasn’t a MySpace user, I said

Since I’m neither a 14 year old nor a musician, I don’t have a MySpace account.

Moments later, I realized that what I should have said was

Since I’m neither a 14 year old, nor a musician, nor a pedophile, I don’t have a MySpace account.

I’m very disappointed in myself. George Carlin would be disappointed as well.

Update: Now I’m stuck watching George Carlin on YouTube. Best curse ever: “Holy jumpin’ fuckin’ shitballs!” [@0:53]. Also my favourite Carlin rant: Airport Security (which happened well before September 2001, and rings true even in our stupid, stupid post-911 world).