Archive for February, 2006

Hand-crafted memory containers from RadioShack

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OK, it’s a surprise that RadioShack has the best price this week ($49.99 for 1GB). JJ at work pointed me at this deal. Here’s the part I like, buried in the description:

Ultra Dual Channel DDR Memory modules ship in a beautifully crated mahogany box

Huh? Now I need to order it just to see if it comes in a mahogany box…

Microsoft XBOX360 review

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This one is not going to be easy for you XBOX fans, but here goes.

I bought the XBOX360 on eBay for $540 including shipping and handling. I have the premium console (list $399 not incl. tax). A quick check of Walmart last week revealed this is now in stock. This is the 2nd version of the XBOX360, with the “orange” screen of death problems (overheating?) worked out.
I bought an extra wireless controller, remote control, and a copy of Quake4.

First impressions:

Graphics and startup are underwhelming. The original XBOX had so much more of a WOW factor, but mainly because of the signature Halo title that accompanied it. The XBOX360 is possibly the loudest device in my cabinet, requiring significantly more sound-proofing than any other component, including my television.

1 month later:

Beefs:

  1. Stupid thing won’t stream video off my computer. I BOUGHT IT FOR THAT. (Windows Media Connect gives it the ability to stream music or photos only!) I ended up buying a D-Link DSM-520 to do what the XBOX360 won’t. To summarize the problem, XBOX360’s only stream VIDEO off an attached HDD, iPod, or Media Center PC. So you say, why wouldn’t I move my PC to Windows Media Center? Firstly, Windows Vista will have this feature built-in according to the pundits, just a matter of waiting for the release. Secondly, I run Windows XP Professional, Home and Media Center are huge steps down from this full featured OS.
  2. Games suck and are slow. Quake4 is clearly a bad port onto the console, and graphics are average, and occasionally jerky. Shame on them. On the other hand this is the first time I’ve heard anyone swear in a video game.
  3. Must…… release……….. Halo………… 3.
  4. Can’t download and play, or in fact, download and do anything (need to stay on the download screen or your download is fried).
  5. Can’t surf the net. This would be nice.
  6. No HDMI. And they call themselves high-definition.

Things I like:

  1. It’s kind of a cool, well-designed box
  2. Wireless controllers are awesome.
  3. Plays classic XBOX games like HALO2 quite well, in high-definition widescreen.

What I would buy now:

My XBOX360 is for sale. I really like the DSM-520, and can wait for Halo3 and the HD-DVD add-on drive for the XBOX360. The DSM-520 is really good at what it does! See my review on that in upcoming posts. The XBOX360 is just not what I wanted or needed. I suppose if I had a terabyte of storage on a noisy Media Center PC in another room, this would be an awesome solution for me, but right now it bites.

JVC HD-61Z786 HD-ILA projection television review

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Well, I bought the television in August 2005, so I figured it was time for me to write a review. I bought it for $3100 USD from Ultimate Electronics in Boulder, CO. Interestingly enough, I had to talk my wife OUT of buying the 70″ model of the same television (given living room size, you’ll have to forgive me, but 70″ is JUST TOO BIG.
First impressions:

This TV is bright, and the colors are fantastic and bright. The 720p three-chip LCOS is spectacular, and my four high-def sources are well-served by the TV. For reference, my high-definition sources (all dutifully set to 720p, regardless of source image) are:

  1. Hughes HR10-250 High Definition DirecTiVo
  2. NeuNeo HVD108 High Definition (upsampling) DVD player
  3. D-Link DSM-520
  4. Microsoft XBOX360

I’ve also tested the other sources:

  1. Laptop computer (SONY Vaio VGN-T350P) with VGA output
  2. Internal ATSC tuner on the JVC

6 months later:

Well, I still really enjoy the TV, but here’s some of my beefs.

  1. It’s loud, I put sound-absorbent panels on the wall to dampen the fan noise. It still bothers me, and sets up resonances on the cabinet from time to time which can only be solved by “hitting the TV”.
  2. Only 1 HDMI input (heck, I have 2, soon 3 HDMI sources, what am I supposed to do? I’m thinking of buying a multi-HDMI input receiver to do the switching, but REALLY!)
  3. Input switching is ponderously slow. I mean seconds slow. I think discrete codes and a Pronto Neo universal remote will solve this, but for now, ugh.
  4. Scaling options for different source aspect ratios are non-existent! My Panasonic plasma could do all kind of anamorphic scales to put a 4:3 image on a 16:9 screen. This doesn’t do any of them. I really miss this, and this REALLY takes from it’s ability to be a suitable HTPC monitor (it can’t even accept a 720p on the VGA input!).
  5. HDMI input claims not to accept DVI signals (from computers). I don’t even know if this is true.
  6. Only 2 component inputs (yes, with 4 sources, I use HDMI, and use receiver to switch 2 high-definition inputs to get to 3 component inputs and 1 HDMI)
  7. Low-definition content looks terrible. I’m not even sure anyone can do this right except for Faroudja (not even Genesis!). This is the model that supposedly has an improved scaling engine, but I see no evidence of this.

Here’s what’s good:

  1. There ain’t no color wheel. I find wheel noise even more compelling that the fan noise on this unit.
  2. Colors are still great, bright. Even with direct sunlight on the screen (a common problem in Boulder) the screen still works.
  3. Sharpness on high-definition inputs is spectacular.
  4. It works at altitude (I live at 7400 ft)
  5. It’s really thin, much thinner than comparable DLP units and LCD units.
  6. It’s not washed out like the SHARP I was considering in the same period.

What would I buy today:

Honestly, I like the TV a lot. That being said, the new round of 65″+ LCDs (SHARP, etc.) are finally losing that “washed-out” look, so I may opt for one of these soon, and end up with the 61″ in the bedroom. I will never buy a DLP, because the color wheel throws away so much brightness potential (1/3 the time illuminating each color!). Also, after the newest round of 1080P lieing from Samsung (their so-called 1080P set was only 1280×720, hey, that’s my resolution AND needs a color wheel) I’m inclined to go to LCDs and forever forego projection.

Fictitious names

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So there’s this guy at work, named, let’s call him, Kraig Gittilson…..

Actually, Kraig’s a good guy, just wanted to see if he reads my blog.

Drupal to e107

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I’m still deciding how I’m going to handle boulderheights.org. Initially, I was quite happy with drupal (recommended by Dan) but I can’t figure out how to do some more complex (and necessary) operation with this engine (in particular, how to make the forums readable only by registered users). Now I’m in a conundrum, because about 20 users have added their information to the drupal database, and the website is advertised via a sign on the corner of Deer Trail and Lee Hill. I’ve checked, and I can’t figure out how to move people’s accounts over to e107 (also recommended by Dan, has the ability to lock out forums). Anyone have a solution?

WordPress for everything

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After switching Cassie over to WordPress for her “single web-page turned blog”, I overhauled my own website, which was a mixture of B2evolution, FrontPage and custom PHP scripts to WordPress. I hope you like it. From the authoring point of view, the WYSIWYG TinyMCE editor is awesome. The conversion from blog engine to blog engine took around 10 minutes. The actual conversion of the website took me quite a while, but it’s been years (like, 6) since I did anything with the website.

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Along with this conversion, I combined my “site proper” with my blog. In the process, many old links are probably broken, but I’ll be working on fixing them over the next while.

StashCard

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Empty box to put in your PCMCIA slot…

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