Fun Stuff Sports

Digging my new pitching machine

I recently bought this Louisville Slugger product (the “Blue Flame”) on Amazon and I have to say it’s pretty cool!

I chose it because it does not require power (no cords, batteries, etc), it is spring operated.

I will say that when I set this thing up, the main plastic part shattered after only 5 uses… but, I contacted the vendor who sold it and they were awesome and immediately shipped me a new part and the machine has been working great since.

I’ve used this machine at a few parks around the city and people are always coming up asking “What the heck it that thing?” and find it cool and interesting. So this thing is fun to use and a good way to meet new people!

Oh, yeah, and my kids are getting to be better at hitting.

Fun Stuff Movies

AVI Player for iPad

I wanted an app on my iPad 2 and mini to play videos I have on my linux media server (which consists of mostly AVI files). I found oplayer to be an excellent option for me!

The only drawback is the recent version seems to have lost the ability to remember what you were watching when you go back to the player. With the old version I could just put the iPad away overnight and when I called back oplayer the next day it would be on the same video in the same spot so I could resume. Now, the new version forces me to start from scratch and play the video from the start and manually find where I was.

I’m asking the oplayer folks about this and if they come through then this app is truly as good as I have been telling you all!

Fun Stuff Hardware

Bad Marketing from Cisco

I was in Best Buy the other day browsing some wi-fi access points and came across the WRT54G2 which seemed to suit my purposes. On the back of the box I encountered this interesting piece of marketing material:


Now seriously, what the hell? They’re using a fading scale to indicate the uses? So I suppose “Multiple Computers” is vaguely recommended? And “Streaming Music” seems to be slightly recommended? I suppose the usage icon on the far right is downright not recommended, but can’t we just get an honest do or don’t from the usage guide?

And then the marketing team seems to have their own rating system which is not explained anywhere and is completely unhelpful. Ok, so “High Performance” is rated N++! Are you kidding me? What the hell is a “N”, and what does a plus sign indicate? What would “N–” mean?

The back of the box should be a case study in a marketing class on what not to do!

A quick tech tip… there are actually TWO WRT54G2 models floating around on shelves. DO NOT buy the one that has this silly thing on the back of the box, it actually has less onboard memory than the other model. But they both cost the same.

Fun Stuff Hardware

Setting up a Digital Media System

For many years I’ve had my own home file server tucked away in my basement serving all my home file needs. It is a Linux box with 2 Terabytes of storage that acts as:

  • a NFS file server for other UNIX systems
  • a Samba file server for Windows systems
  • a LDAP server for keeping a single location of contacts
  • an Apache web server for an internal website of links and other information (photos, etc)
  • a Slimserver daemon that provides support to my Squeezebox
  • a MediaTomb server that provides support to my DLINK DSM-520
  • an internal Domain Name Server (DNS)

and more!

I use this setup to hold all my digital photos, audio (mp3) files, and I’m now in the process of scanning in my DVD library. So let me take a moment to say “Just say NO to piracy!”

I personally have found it to be cost effective to buy used CDs or DVDs and scan them in to get good quality recordings, and all my media stays only on my local server that is inaccessible from the Internet. Aside from the legal issues, who wants to clog up their Internet connection with unnecessary traffic for others?

I’ll pass along some things I found while building my setup. I never went the iTunes route because I’ve always used mp3 players that were smaller and cheaper than the iPod. Plus, I want to use a generic format like mp3 and not be limited by what I can play it on. With mp3 I can play all my music on my computer, laptop, stereo (through Slimdevices Squeezebox)  or even my DSM-520. It is simple enough to get your CDs into mp3 files so I won’t go into that.

Inexpensive and niceNext, the video portion. I chose the DSM-520 because I wanted a cheap box that had no moving parts (i.e., no hard drive) that would talk nicely to my fileserver. Well, it turns out that it doesn’t just look for a fileserver using something like Samba — it requires a UPnP type server to be running. DLINK gives you one, but it is for Windows, and you can’t really have a Windows box on all the time to that purpose. At least, not reliably 🙂 Seriously, I have linux boxes that have been up for 450 days with no problems. I can’t let a Windows box go for 3 weeks before all hell breaks loose.

So, I looked around for some UPnP server software I could use and chose MediaTomb which I could easily add using Yum. It is simple enough to run, and lets me add video/photos/music that puts references of those files into a MediaTomb database.

Now you need to scan your DVDs into your library! There are various free packages (like handbrake) which I looked at, but in the end I settled on CloneDVDMobile which is by SlySoft, a great little company that I’ve used for their AnyDVD software which allows me to watch my DVDs on my PC (believe it or not, some DVDs refuse to play nice on a PC).

When you use this software, you are given a whole slew of formats to choose from. I used the generic DivX one that produces AVI files. Most DVDs will offer me the 852×480 resolution, and I max out the quality which goes to 25-29 usually. I use 2-pass deinterlacing and prefer saving it as one big file.

The AVI files it produces look great on my win media player, and I had some trouble figuring out how to make it look nice on my DSM-520, and after much hair pulling it turned out that I just had to alter the aspect ratio in the DSM-520’s settings screen to 16:9 and then it was perfect!

So now I can kick back on my couch and flip through all my DVD titles and watch anything I want with a touch of a button!

Of course now my wife says, “There’s nothing here to watch! It’s all The Matrix and James Bond!”

So now I need to scan in a bunch of Julia Roberts movies.

Fun Stuff

Segway Crash!

I live near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, and for those of you who don’t know, “The Wharf” is one of the most visited tourist area anywhere in the world. And as such, it is filled with all sorts of products and services that a tourist would be drawn towards, such as Alcatraz T-Shirts, Golden Gate Bridge snow globes, and, yes, you guessed it — Segway tours.

Every now and then I can spy a group of around 20 tourists in single file segwaying around the streets of San Francisco. On this particular day I watched as five of them got into a big pileup and fell over on top of each other in the middle of an intersection! These things are supposed to be easy to ride, but apparently not too easy.

I couldn’t get my camera out in time to catch the tourists flailing around with their segways on top of them, but here they are trying to drag these things up and out of the way of traffic.

Boom! Crash!

Fun Stuff

San Francisco Ready for Olympic Torch Protesters

Everyone knows how much of a ruckus the Olympic Torch is causing this year as it traipses its way across the world. Well here in San Francisco the officials did not want the same silliness that ensued in Paris so they are doing a variety of things, which apparently include helicopters, motorcycle police, police running, police on bicycles, buses full of police that pour out fresh policemen when the running ones get tired, police on horseback, and a big yellow car shaped like a boat.

Just over my house alone I spotted 10 helicopters, I assume a bunch of them are the media. But who knows? They could be packed with SWAT police ready to rappel down and save the torch. Photos below, click for larger versions.

Helicopters protecting the torch Helicoptors protecting the torch

The crowd was excited and peaceful, I did not see anyone charging the torch with a fire extinguisher or any other fire-intimidating device. Which is great, because, really, why protest the torch for crying out loud! The torch didn’t hurt anyone. And certainly the 80 year-old man carrying the torch in one hand, and his cane in the other, doesn’t need anyone yelling at him for the block or two he gets to participate. You want to protest China? Here’s an idea — go to the embassy. Trust me, you don’t want to cross the San Francisco police.

Police protecting the torch Police protecting the torch

Police protecting the torch A yellow boat-car protecting the torch

Fun Stuff

My iPhone

I love my iPhone! Don’t you love yours? I was what you might call an early adopter however, since I got mine in 1996. That’s right, the original iPhone. Luxurious large touch screen, full keyboard, speakerphone, and … 14.4k modem!

Yep, this thing was around a while back, spawned from the labs at National Semiconductor, launched by a startup I worked for, and then sold to Cisco Systems before they kindly gave up the domain name for an undisclosed sum. That domain name used to be registered in my name — I rue the day I assigned it over to Cisco 🙂

Fun Stuff

WTF Voicemail

My friend Steve threw a party a few weeks back and one of his uninvited guests left him this voicemail the day after. Wait for the image below and click it to hear:

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Think you know what the hell this guy is saying? Feel free to comment.