I Don’t Want To Lose The Past

Unfortunately, the downside is we’ve got a lot of orphaned data. If you saved a photo on a floppy years ago good luck seeing it!

dvd_discs.pngA friend asked me to help him with his website. I spent a few hours transcoding video to “flv” files last night. He gave me the video on DVDs¹. Boy, there’s media that came and is now going in a hurry! I carry 8 Gb of memory with my keys–a lot more than a DVD can hold.

Since I started playing with computers we’ve gone from cards, tape and switches to three separate types of floppy disk, CDs and DVDs. Nowadays you’re just as likely to get movies streamed over the Internet without any physical media.

The floppies are so outmoded they probably can’t hold the documentation for today’s software much less the software itself! CDs aren’t much better.

As technology moved forward our demand for storage has increased. It’s like closet space at home. You never have enough.

Unfortunately, the downside is we’ve got a lot of orphaned data. If you saved a photo on a floppy years ago good luck seeing it! Who knows how long will be before computer manufacturers stop including DVD drives too! They’re bulky, power hungry and expensive.

A tattered copy of an old newspaper is still readable. My 1968 Fortran programming masterpiece (adding 50+5) or a photo from a turn of the (21st) century Sony Mavica camera not so much. Even the archives of the Internet aren’t so permanent.

I just looked for my earliest net posting, November 11, 1992, but couldn’t find it! It had been safely held when Google acquired the entire Usenet archives a few years ago. Where is it now?

I like the expanding abilities of our modern society. I just don’t want to lose everything we’ve done up until now. It seems like that might be happening.

¹ – The video I was given had been saved by a video editor program, then burned in standard DVD format. Bad idea. Even when first used engineers knew DVDs had limited capacity. The format used for DVD movies and the like is lossy and compressed. Video should never be transocded to a DVD unless it will never be used for anything but watching. He should have saved the files then burned them as is–unplayable on a DVD player, but higher quality for my need.

Watching The New TV

In the past I’ve heard of people watching HDTV shows just because they’re in HD. I better understand now.

The DVR is set up. The TV is connected. The DVD is connected too. I moved it all onto the new TV table. Wow, it was so easy. I even programmed the universal cable remote for the TV and DVD player.

I need to read more about HDMI to find exactly what it is, but that’s the connection between the cable box and TV set. The picture looks amazing–bright and sharp on HDTV.

In the past I’ve heard of people watching HDTV shows just because they’re in HD. I better understand now. I got caught up in some Discovery Channel undersea adventure because the pictures were pretty. I switched off when I realized I wasn’t paying attention to what was being said.

The Laptop Arrives

UPS arrived early yesterday afternoon, my new Dell Laptop in hand. After lots of anguish, and an email and call to Dell executives, I decided to purchase a Inspiron 640M.

If you have haven’t purchased a notebook computer in a while, or you’ve just pointed to one in a store, said “mine” and took out your credit card, you’ve missed a terribly weird experience.

No matter what you do, you’re never quite sure what you’re doing!

Dell’s site is that way – but so is HP’s and a few others I tried. There are lots of options, but many of them are only described in marketing hyperbole. What’s the difference between different processors in absolute terms? Got me.

Then there’s the matter of price. It’s tough to look at any price conscious website and not see a link for a Dell deal, that leads back to the Dell site. I configured the same laptop in a few similar ways and came up with wildly differing prices!

As I told the woman I spoke to at Dell, I didn’t want this experience to be like buying a car, or worse purchasing an airplane seat. I don’t want to make a purchase only to find the person in the seat next to me paid a lot less!

My laptop has a Core 2 Due processor, 2Gb RAM, CD/DVD writer, 120 Gb hard drive (which shows up as a 110 Gb hard drive) and a WXGA+ screen – meaning 1440×900 resolution.

That was the deal breaker for me, resolution. As far as I could see, there were no other laptops priced in the same ballpark as the Dell that gave me as many pixels on a 14.1″ screen. Pixels are important to me. I edit lots of photos.

Like I said, the laptop arrived and I am favorably impressed. I am not as gung ho about Windows Vista – and that might just be because it’s different.

In typical Microsoft fashion, I loaded some updates, which busted the Vista sidebar! I had to do a rollback.

I also now better understand the Apple commercial where John Hodgman (playing “PC”) is asked for permission to perform a variety of tasks on a steadily maddening basis (go ahead – watch the commercial).

My idea of security isn’t sitting at my door with a shotgun. That seems to be Microsoft’s answer.

At nearly every instance where I installed or tweaked something, Vista asked if that’s what I really wanted. Often it asked two times and sometimes three.

My friend Peter says some savvy users have turned this ‘feature’ off. Maybe me too, though not now.

Speaking of security, though the system came with a trial subscription for security software, I’ve been using the free version of Kaspersky’s virus scanner, given away by AOL. When I attempted to install it, I found it was not Vista compatible.

The battery life on the new laptop is much more than any I’ve ever used before. It looks like it will be at least 5 hours in real life. That means it becomes a DVD player for airplane trips – even cross country trips. That’s cool.

More observations later. Right now, I’m pretty happy.

She’s Back

Steffie drove home last night. College is over for year one.

She had been car-less (as opposed to careless) until last weekend when I removed the back seats and gave her the keys.

The car, actually a compact SUV, was packed to the gills. There was a TV, VCR, DVD player, printers, laptop, clothes, and 6 cases of Gatorade&#185. Everything was arranged so the windows weren’t blocked.

Someone needs to do a study to find out how much, if any, laundry is done on college campuses during the last few weeks of a semester.

After a year in an environment where she could come and go as she pleased, and when she pleased, Stef is back under the lock and key that is parental guidance. I suspect there will be some conflict – hopefully minor.

It’s not only Steffie who has lived a different life. Helaine and I adjusted too, as we became ’empty nesters.’

Can we live together in harmony? Isn’t that the question asked by every family under these circumstances?

To quote my weatherman self, I am cautiously optimistic. Steffie has lived under her own rules, but she’s also learned to live with others who won’t forgive her just because she’s their child.

It will be an interesting summer. Hopefully, it will also be a happy summer.

&#185 – At the end of the semester, any remaining money on your meal plan is lost. So, Steffie filled up with Gatorade. Though she bought by the case, the school charged by the bottle. It’s still better than the money totally going to waste.

Steffie Goes To College

Every life has milepost days. Yesterday was certainly one of them, as we took Steffie to college and helped her move into the dorm.

Make no mistake about it. This has affected me. But whatever I’m feeling pales in comparison to what Helaine and Steffie are feeling. I can claim to understand, but I can’t.

Our day started very early. It was supposed to start just early, but Helaine couldn’t sleep. When I woke up, a few hours before my scheduled time, she was already out of the shower.

We planned to leave the house at 7:30 and were pretty much on schedule.

If you’re reading this, waiting for the moment when the wheels fell off the wagon, you might as well stop now. This day went exceptionally smoothly. Nearly everything went as planned and the college was shockingly prepared and organized.

Is this my life we’re talking about?

The trip to Long Island took around two hours. There is a ferry available, but it only makes sense if you are going to far Eastern Long Island – not us. We headed down the Connecticut Turnpike which becomes the New England Thruway at the New York State line.

As we passed over the Throgs Neck Bridge, I realized that at some time Steffie would be making this trip on her own. I wanted to let her know about some tricky exiting.

An hour and a half into a two hour trip is too late to start. The best way is to let her drive it some time, with me in the passenger’s seat.

As we pulled on campus, a uniformed guard moved toward the car. Before Steffie went to her dorm, did she have her 700 number?

Sure, it was under a room and a half’s worth of stuff!

Steffie and I set out for the Student Center. This was actually a good thing, because she was able to get her student ID, which she would need for virtually everything else.

Next stop, the dorm. Steffie’s room is on the 6th floor of a 13 floor tower. The building is poured concrete, with some brick and cinder block. I would suppose if you’re going to build a structure to hold hundreds of 18-22 year olds, you’d want to make as little of it flammable as is possible.

The concrete looks like it was poured into wooden molds, so the grain pattern of the wood is still visible on the building’s exterior. I’m sure some architect somewhere will wince when he reads this, but I like that look. At least dull, drab concrete is given some modicum of texture.

Another campus cop, dressed like a park ranger, was near the dorm, directing traffic. He asked me if I could squeeze into a spot, which I did. The rear hatch of the Explorer was poised at the edge of the sidewalk. Perfect.

We walked inside where Steffie registered for the dorm, got a sticker added to her ID and a key for her room (don’t lose it – replacements are $150). Then we moved back outside for the surprise of the day.

The college had a small fleet of wheeled bright orange carts. Instead of hand carrying a car’s worth of stuff, we filled up the cart (twice) and rolled it to the elevator and then the sixth floor.

Steffie’s room was ‘prison modern’. It’s small room, with large window. The floors are some sort of easily cleaned, plastic derivative. There were two desks, each with a hutch, two dressers and two large standing hanging closets.

Near the door was the outlet for high speed Internet and telephone access. It, and the cable TV/phone jack, were the only real mistakes of the room. In order to bring the Internet to the desk across the room, you’d need to run the school supplied Ethernet cable across the floor… or go out and buy a fifty foot cable (which is what I did).

I thought Steffie had overpacked… and maybe she did… but she managed to squeeze everything into her half of the room. Once she put some photo montages and other personal touches on the wall, the room began to look homey.

While Helaine and Steffie fixed the living space, I tackled the electronics. Her computer quickly connected to the school’s network. Her two speakers and subwoofer sounded great on her desk.

At one time a student would pack up a small stereo system for a dorm room. There’s really no reason to do that anymore. Steffie’s laptop will serve as her stereo. It’s loaded with all the MP3’s that are in her iPod, and then some. Plus, it will play CDs.

All this time, while the unpacking and set up was going on, Steffie was alone. Her roommate, coming from Kansas, had not yet arrived. Half the room was warm and fuzzy. The other half was Cellblock-G sterile.

Being on the sixth floor and facing west, the room has a great view. The building in the center of this photo is North Shore Towers (where my friend Peter’s parents once lived), about eight miles away.

As the afternoon moved along, we realized there were a few items we had forgotten, so we headed out, looking for a ‘big box’ store to load up.

When I went to college, there was an old black and white TV in the common area in the basement. With its rabbit ears antenna, we could only get a few fuzzy signals. The was Boston’s Back Bay, where even a rooftop antenna brought ghostly signals and where cable wouldn’t be introduced for at least a decade or more.

Today, there is cable TV in each room! Steffie has multiple channels of HBO. Hey, we don’t have that at home!

We had decided to wait on getting her a TV until we got there. And, quite honestly, there wouldn’t have been room in the car.

First stop was Best Buy. It must have been a cold day in hell for me to walk in there, because Best Buy and I just don’t get along. I don’t want to go into the whole story, but my last trip to a Best Buy, much closer to home, ended with me screaming at the manager, “OK then, call the cops.”

We found an off brand 20″ TV for… Oh, go ahead, guess. I’m waiting.

The TV was $87.99. How is that humanly possible?

Forget the labor and parts. How can you ship a weighty box halfway around the world and build a Best Buy on the profit from this thing? I’m not sure how is possible. The TV has remote control and input jacks for a DVD and/or VCR.

The remote came with batteries!

We also picked up a little DVD player. Sure, the computer can play DVDs, but this is what she wanted… and again, it was dirt cheap. The DVD player was $31.99.

Here’s what I can’t figure out. How can this TV/DVD combination sell for less than the frames for my eyeglasses? There’s some disconnect here… or the ability to make a boatload of money producing cheap frames.

The TV fit nicely on top of Steffie’s dresser. The DVD player needed to be turned into one corner. It’s not optimal, but it will do. It’s a dorm room, after all.

Next stop for us was the theater for a lecture on fire safety. I had already given Steffie my own cautionary tale about fire alarms and dorms. It will go off often. She still needs to leave. She can’t take the chance it will always be a false alarm.

There was another paragraph here about the lecturer, his demeanor and his warmth. I have removed it because I don’t want to be sued. ‘Nuff said.

Evening was approaching and Steffie’s roommate was still a no show.

At the lobby of the dorm there was a short list of who wasn’t there. The list grew shorter as names were crossed off. Not this one. She was top of the list and still missing in action.

We went to a barbecue on the intramural field. There were previously warm hot dogs and cheeseburgers (with unmelted cheese on the burgers) and we ate away.

Time was running short. Helaine and I had to return to Connecticut. We didn’t want to leave Steffie before the roommate arrived, but we had no choice.

Our goodbyes were tearful. Steffie put on wide sunglasses, but tears still poured out. Helaine was no less emotional.

After being with Steffie virtually every day for 18 years, we would be separated. Helaine will be seeing her in a month. It will be longer for me.

If you would have asked me how Steffie would fare in college a year ago, I wouldn’t have had a ready, positive answer. It’s different now. This last year has seen her mature a lot.

She has said, and I believe her, that she’s ready for college and the college experience. I think she is.

It will be interesting to see how she ‘plays with others’. As an only child, Steffie has had her own bedroom, bathroom and playroom. Now she’ll be sharing a room with one girl and a bathroom with a floor of them.

There are so many things to learn in college. Classroom work is only one part of a very large experience.

Blogger’s note: Steffie’s roommate arrived, alone, right after we left. She had packed light with more being shipped over the next few days.

In the Dictionary, Next to Idiot – My Picture

Normally, I’m a Hawaiian Standard Time guy. That means I’m out of bed around Noon Eastern time.

Today was an exception. I had plans to attend the Photoshop seminar in New Haven. The alarm rang at 9:00 AM.

Since I would go directly to work, I put a suit, shirt and tie into a plastic ‘valet’ bag to put in my trunk. I made sure there was a compact flash card in my camera and threw it over my shoulder. Then I picked up a bag with a portable DVD player. I use this to watch my school lectures at work.

Downstairs, Helaine asked if I had everything. I patted myself down and realized I had left the ticket to the seminar in my office.

I dropped everything and headed back to pluck the ticket from my printer. This was really the first time I was looking at it… and the first time I realized the actual date of the seminar was Wednesday!

Vacation Madness Begins

I’m not quite sure why, but I am looking forward to our vacation next week more than I usually do. I have literally been counting the days (as has my daughter – or so I’ve been told by those who see her IM away message).

I mentioned this fond anticipation to someone at work. It’s unusual. I always enjoy vacations but seldom look forward to them quite this much. I really enjoy my job and never mind going to work, so it’s not that. It’s not like I’m lifting boxes in a warehouse for a living.

Certainly, I enjoy Vegas (we’re on a first name basis). We go every summer. This trip will be a little different. Not only will Helaine and I be going, so will Steffie. Our friends John and Cheryl and their daughter Ali will be flying out with us too.

There’s more! My folks, sister and brother-in-law, two cousins and their young son are also coming along.

With my diet a success (down 26 pounds and holding), I intend on indulging myself… partaking of Las Vegas’ particular form of excess in cuisine. Hey, it’s only a week. I can go back on the diet when we return.

No, I will go back on the diet when we return.

Helaine has started getting organized. Some people pack light for trips – not us. I will not complain or argue. If I did, Helaine would ask (and has asked) if I wanted to get us ready? No, I do not. She can pack as much as she pleases – it’s fine with me. I will carry each and every ounce and smile as I do it.

I have a few little things I’m doing. We needed an audio splitter for a portable DVD player to keep Ali and Steffie entertained on the flight. Got it. A car needs some service. Arranged that today. I also took an old pair of glasses had them updated with my current prescription, so I have a spare.

Batteries have been charged and organized. That’s a real pain. Every piece of electronic equipment from camera to camcorder to computer to DVD player uses a different battery! I might have to pack an extension cord to give me enough outlets to plug everything in!

And then, there’s the Sony laptop.

It’s still in the hospital. It seems like we might know what is wrong – a burned out bulb. This very special tube arrived today, FedEx’ed overnight from California. By the time it hit our front step, it was too late for me to bring it to the hospital, so Helaine drove it to Orange. She said the place was jammed.

If this doesn’t solve the problem, every other possible solution is too expensive to think about. Helaine reminded the ‘doctors’ that I must have the computer by Saturday – but who knows? Meanwhile, I have configured an older backup machine to make the trip, just in case.

Both Helaine and I have become totally dependent on having a PC at the ready. It hasn’t taken that many years for this to go from an interesting lug-a-long to a near necessity. Ditto for cell phones. Except for my folks and young cousin, everyone will be packing a phone.

We arrive in Las Vegas a week too early to try out the new monorail. We are, however, going in time to see the new light show downtown on Fremont Street.

I am looking forward, very much, to playing poker. On-line poker has been good training. I’ve played a lifetime of hands over the last year. How will I do in real brick and mortar casinos with regulars who used to wait all year to pocket my money? I don’t know. I want to win. More importantly, I want to play well.

Even before I had a blog, I filed trip reports while on vacation. This year will be no exception. Hopefully, it will all be good news with neat photos.

Blogger’s note: A neat part of having a blog is the ability to look back at what I wrote earlier. Last year’s Vegas vacation is just a click away.

Back To School

When I was a kid, summer meant time off from school. Not so today. I’ve been taking classes at Mississippi State University for five semesters. A week ago, I started the sixth. It goes on through much of the summer.

Am I wrong? Doesn’t the word ‘semester’ imply there are only two?

During the two cooler weather semesters, assignments are due once a week. The summer semester is compact, so now I’ve got assignments due every five days. Even today. Memorial Day, I had two quizzes due.

Making it even tougher is the anticipation of our summer vacation trip to Las Vegas. Before we go, I need to get ahead. I’ve already started by taking a quiz due Friday this afternoon. Tonight, I’m hoping to finish one homework test which is also due Friday.

This semester, one course is on DVD and the other VHS tape. DVD is my preferred medium. Not only is it more portable (I can bring a portable DVD player or laptop) but I can easily watch lectures at double speed. It is much more understandable than you’d imagine. The DVD software I use allows me to watch ‘sped up’ video while correcting the speaker’s pitch. In other words, it doesn’t sound like Donald Duck.

So far, I’m enjoying the summer’s courses – Applied Climatology and Radar Meteorology. Both are courses I know something about – but I will learn more.

Unfortunately, there is one small thing which is driving me crazy. One of my instructors pronounces ‘es’ as ‘ex’. So, escape becomes ‘excape.’ He knows what he’s talking about as far as climatology is concerned, but each time I hear this mangling of the language it’s like scratching chalk on a blackboard.

Stay With what You Know

I was cleaning out my office this evening and came across a receipt I had saved from a recent trip to Circuit City. It’s a store I enjoy visiting. My computer, digital camera, DVD player and a bunch of other things began their lives at Circuit City.

Please, click on the link and take a look, because this is how Circuit City handles the purchase of a bottle of water and a bottle of soda.

The receipt itself measures 12&#190″ by 4&#188″. Not only are the drinks listed, but so are the two 5&#162 bottle deposits. As it turns out, one drink was taxable, the other not (it doesn’t specify which). Tax was charged on the bottle deposits.

I had 30 days to return my purchase for a full refund. Of course, it had to be in its original condition including packaging.

It’s sort of funny to see them go through all this trouble for two drinks.