Coming Soon - What's in your Ghetto Hardware toolbox
I'm working on a new feature where I will review tricks and tools of the trade. I will post software utilities, tools and equipment that will help you get the job done. feel free to send me ideas at email@example.com
So yesterday's article about the Media Center Bathroom Extender got linked to by the Slashdot homepage. I did it, I sent in a proposed article abotu my latest hack and they accepted it and posted it.
I guess what I have to say is that I now believe in the "slashdot effect". About 30 minutes ago I saw an e-mail from my webhost 1and1:
Subject: [Warning] Traffic limit: 100% reached
Dear Tom Alphin,
You have exceeded your included monthly traffic of 5000 MB (5.00 GB). As you have not provided your credit card details, your Website will be automatically locked. Associated services will be deactivated and your Website will no longer be available online.
You can remove the lock by entering your credit card details on the Control Panel.
In any event, I added a Credit Card to my account and I guess I will be billed 1$ per gigabyte.
~15000 attacks by Slashdot homepage referrals.
~700 from xbox-scene.com
~2000 from the actual article on slashdot. (1500 from article.pl, 500 from the permanent slashdot.org/articles/04/10/09/1426240.shtml link.)
P.S. The site with all of the associated small images was 188k. I just removed 15k form each of the four images by simply removing the EXIF data. (using the terribly organized but exceptionally useful exifer). That's a savings of 60k, or 1/3 of the pages footprint. I could have shaved even more space off if I just compressed the images more aggresively.
Media Center Bathroom Extender
Related Link: http://www.ghettohardware.com/articles/mcebathroom/
What? A Media Center PC for the bathtub???
No, not really. What I have done is repurposed a Xbox controller w/ built in LCD as a second display and controller for the Media Center PC in my bedroom. This allows me to change songs, pause, change volume etc.. without leaving the bathroom. I use it while reading a book in the bathtub. I would not reccomend it for DVD or TV viewing as the screen is very small. I suppose it would suffice for TV programs where the image is not that important like a news program.
Real Rhapsody, Cool idea, Frustrating Software
First off, I think subscription music is going to be the norm very soon. If they can work out the rights such that I can take songs from my subscription onto a portable device, nobody will need to own music again.
That said, Real's Rhapsody music collection and software is nowhere near mature enough for everyday use.
1) Music selection is spotty at best. Sure, they have a ton of alternative fare, and I can dig deep into the Ninjatune Record Label's cd library (ex: Amon Tobin, DJ Food, etc..), but I run into roadblocks when I want to hear music by similar artists like Squarepusher who is on Warp Records, or Aphex Twin.
2) To fill the gaps as described in (1), you cannot include songs from your personal collection in the Rhapsody Experience. I feel it is awkward to have to use one tool to play music you own/borrowed/stole and another to play your Subscription Music.
3) Usability/Design failures drive me bonkers...
- Doesn't support back/forward buttons on mouse.
It's emulating a web browser, so emulate basic browser features too.
- Awkward layout of content.
Artist name is in upper left, but to go back to the homepage for the artist I must scroll the right side of the screen back up to the top and click on the "go to artist home" button.
- Easy to play a song you just found right now, but impossible to add it to your current playlist at the end of the list.
How are we supposed to create a party playlist if we disrupt the current track whenever you add somethign ot the list.
- Metadata all over the place, and I can't click on it to see related content.
Whenever I see an artists name, sunc as on a compiltion or in a paragraph which describes the influences of another artist, I should be able to click on that name to see the homepage fo that artist. Same thing with asong title. If I see Aerosmith's "walk this way", I should be able to click on "walk this way" to see all the covers and remakes of the song available on Rhapsody. By their design, a virtual homepage for each song title.
shopping spree notes (but I didn't buy anything)
I took a few hours today to look at toys and gadgets.
1) convinced local Cingular store to take a phone home and see if the reception was acceptable with their GSM network. I could hear just fine even in the basement, but whenever I spoke i heard a heinous echo. Conclusion: Undecided.
2) took a test drive in a toyota prius. It was the 2004 model, so not the absolute newest, but it has the v2 changes that they made for 2004 so it's good enough to discuss. It is entirely drivable, Not entirely attractive, and reasonably spacious. (I can almost lie down in the back w/ the back seats folded down and fit. In a pinch I think it would be fine for two medium or small adults to sleep in.) Build quality of the interior surpasses subaru and a little lover than Honda. I am undecided about the giant touchscreen that replaces dozens of manual controls. Fortunately, they hooked up the most common controls on the steering wheel so you don't need to use the touchpad for most tasks. (volume, mode and channel; ac on/off and temperature up/down) Unfortunately you cannot use the giant screen to watch movies, control your Ipod or use a navigation system. I'm also not convinced that the menuing is all that well designed, but it does suffice (can you say flash upgrade and 3rd party skins?) Conclusion: I'll wait for v3, but it is good technology.
3) went to best buy to look at gear. First of all, I understand the need to secure the gadgets,. but you cannot reasonably try out a phone or mp3 player when it's locked down and you cannot access many of the controls. That sucked. I tried out the Rio Carbon once he took it out of the protective sheath. It sucks. I cannot narrow my collection first by genre (ex: rock) then by artist (ex: aerosmith) then by album (ex: big ones). This is a key way to filter your collection down to the desired subset that they are obviously too dense to understand. Too bad, because I have an unopened Rio Carbon on my desk that I will have to sell, return or exchange for something useful. (I don't have the receipt, but I bet I can exchange it at best buy for a Ipod Mini since they cost the same)
Lastly, I like the new refrigerators with the fridge up top and the freezer below. You open the door and all the frozen goods live in two big drawers. Seems exceptionally convenient (except when you need to hold that extra turkey when tey are buy 1 get 1 free.)
used books a good deal?
I tried to purchase some books I found on amazon. Unfortunately, it looks like buyign used isn't quite the deal it appears to be.
my order with predominantly used books was 36.60 w/ 42.38$ shipping for a total of 79.66 w/ a little tax.
But, I guess I do save some money afterall. As a rule of thumb, Free super saver shipping makes a difference on books available used for 50% or less than amazon's regular price, but not on items which are pushing towards amazon's price.
if that book is 99 cents used and 8.99 new, get it used, but if you are only saving a few dollars get it used and save on shipping.