[BigBri.net] The official Brian Fields site

24Feb/092

Recycling the Lifedrive

iphone_lifedrive

After getting the iPhone, my wife and I had some toys that went into obselescence.  One of them was my old Palm Lifedrive.  Although the touchscreen was getting a little worn out, it still has a lot of life in it.  It has a decent battery life, a bright 480X320 screen just like the iPhone, wifi, bluetooth, and a 4GB hard drive. 

I ran across an interesting program - TCPMP.  It has since been discontinued, but here's a link to the Palm version: TCPMP

I loaded up the Palm with videos for my son, and bought a cheap $4 set of headphones for him.  I even have the car charger, so he can watch videos on long car rides. 

The only downside was that it can't handle some files with high bitrates (above about 1000k/s).  I use Avidemux to transcode the files and resize them to the Palm's native 480X320 resolution.

23Feb/090

COMLEX II Percentile Table

The three-digit COMLEX score is often difficult to interpret.  This table converts your score to a percentile so you can gauge your performance against that of your peers. This table is based upon the 1995 to present three-digit score with a  mean of 500 and a standard deviation of 83.  Passing score is 400.

9Feb/090

Camaro time bomb

My wife's Camaro just went into self-destruct mode.  It seems like all at once, everything broke.  The thing is 8 years old but it has low miles, and we take good care of it.  The windshield cracked, the brakes warped, the differential's making noise, the speakers blew, and the battery gave up the ghost. 

The most challenging repair was the speakers.  She has the premium Monsoon sound system, and it has some crazy components.  The front 6½" speakers have separate inputs for the woofer and tweeter, with the crossover in the head unit.  My first thought was to simply frankenstein together some aftermarket speakers by bypassing the crossover in the speaker, but I was horribly wrong.  It turns out that they used 2Ω woofers and 4Ω tweeters!  Most aftermarket speakers have 4Ω voice coils, which would mean crappy bass response.  I looked up the price of the factory replacement speakers, and they were $90 EACH! 

A quick internet search found that many people had suffered this situation and found a solution with Infinity's Kappa speakers, which have 2Ω voice coils.  I picked up a pair of 60.9cs component speakers, and wired 'em up.  The main dilemma came when I read a little on impedence matching.  It turns out that most amps can easily drive speakers with higher impedence than rated, but using a lower impedence speaker can damage your amp.  I was worried that the 2Ω tweeters would cause problems.  The increased power would also mean overwhelming highs.  You could solve this by going to your local RadioShack and wiring a couple 1Ω - 10 watt resistors in series with the tweeter, but I chose to just hook up the included crossover to the tweeter and use the -6dB button to reduce the output (RadioShack was out of the resistors I needed). 

The Kappas sound awesome, and they're loud enough to drown out the horrible noise coming from the rear end!  Let's just hope nothing else breaks!

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28Oct/082

Bachelor Chow

I'm in Bakersfield right now, and I thought I'd write about one of my favorite pastimes: cooking.

While most of my bachelor meals consist of microwaved corn dogs dipped in sri racha, I do go on a culinary kick once in a while.  Here's a quick guide to one of my favorite dishes served up bachelor style.

13Aug/084

Some posterize art with GIMP

One of my reservations in switching to Linux was Photoshop.  I really like Photoshop and I'm comfortable with it.  In order to get comfortable with GIMP, I decided to do a few little projects.  One of the filters that I really missed from photoshop was anisotropic filtering, but I found a wonderful filter for GIMP called Greycstoration.

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13Aug/080

Ubuntu Linux [After a few weeks]

After a few weeks with Ubuntu 8.04, I can say that I'm ready to wipe the Windows partition for good.  I still have a few gripes, but for the most part - the money saved on software makes up for the minor frustrations.

Let's start out with Kino: I used kino to put together a few little home videos.  I ran into problems immediately with capturing, but found that it was merely that I had to chmod (change permissions) on a file and I was off and away.  Adding effects with Kino is pretty awkward.  You have to apply the effects and then render a new file which is then inserted into the timeline.  This actually makes applying multiple effects, titles, or filters quite cumbersome.  At one point, I found that I had to export my movie and then re-open it to apply multiple effects.

Getting video to work smoothly on my websites accross multiple platforms has been a real headache.  I want my videos to be hosted by me and viewable in any browser.  I was excited to see that I could encode Flash videos with Kino, but I ran into some problems.  Exporting .flv files left me without any audio when I used the ffmpeg from the ubuntu repositories, so I had to get the copy from medibuntu.  Now I can export my movies in lots of different mp4 formats like h264, xvid, flv, etc.

Working with desktop gadgets got me a little pissed off.  gDesklets didn't have a whole lot of widgets, and Screenlets were really unstable and unpredictable.  They would have strange startup behaviors, they wouldn't stay where I put them, etc.  I ended up giving up entirely.  I may try Prism or Google Desktop sometime.

Avant window manager is great.  I did have a few problems.  First off, if you want to use any cool features, you can't use the copy in the repository - you have to get it from their repository.  The upside to this is that they do provide frequent updates.  Sometimes it uses an application's default image rather than the icon theme that I applied with GTK. The other big annoyance is that I can't empty my trash using either of the included applets, so I have to start gnome panel, empty the trash, and then close the gnome panel.  Getting the gnome panel to stay closed requires you to use a button in the session manager that says "remember current applications".  Unfortunately, there's no way to undo or "forget" once you click that button and return to a default state.

AWN

My final annoyance is standards.  I thought I would be ready to rock with firefox installed, but as it turns out I can't view videos at nbcolympics.com because silverlight only works on windows or mac.  Microsoft isn't the only culprit, though.  I get an error message at mac.com, too!

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7Aug/080

Jump!

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6Aug/080

Devin Reads

Devin memorized the book "Where is my mother?" by P.D. Eastman. This clip shows him reciting a few pages.

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26Jul/080

School Districts

Lara spent some time mapping out the nearby school districts from Upland to Rialto and then ranking them 1-5 stars based upon publicly available test score data. 

  • Red: 1 star
  • Yellow: 2 stars
  • Light Green: 3 stars
  • Medium Green: 4 stars
  • Dark Green: 5 stars
  • Pink: No data
  • No color: Industrial area - No residences

 

To see the map full screen in your browser with the names of individual school districts, click here.

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25Jul/080

Linux

I've used Linux on my laptop for a while, now.  About a year and a half ago I installed Ubuntu dual-boot style with XP.  Unfortunately, I found that it was just too much work for something that felt half-baked.

Allow me to explain:  I am a user - I don't like using a terminal.  When I found that my wireless card didn't work (I have a Broadcom b43XX chipset), I had to do a lot of work to get it operational.  I had to download headers, compile source code, extract firmware, etc.  Let me say, though - the Ubuntu community is very helpful, and it wasn't hard to find the advice I needed.  It just took a lot of typing.

When I was using Ubuntu 7, I felt like things lacked polish.  The screen fonts looked awful, I had trouble mounting my ntfs volume, NVIDIA drivers were a nightmare, beryl crashed my system, etc.

After a year away from my laptop, I recently dusted it off to do some studying in the guest room.  I figured I'd give Ubuntu another chance, and I downloaded the latest version and installed it.

I must say that the everything is a bit more polished now.  The install was a breeze - it took about 20 minutes.  My ntfs partition was easily mounted as /windows.  I didn't have to screw around with multiple packages to get the good stuff - like TT fonts and DVD playback.  I just installed the restricted packages - ONE THING!  For some reason, screen fonts and fonts in Open Office look much better.  The hardware drivers dialog got my wireless working with a few mouse clicks, and my NVIDIA driver installed in a snap!  The desktop effects add a little wow factor, and everything just seems much nicer.

The things I love about Linux:

  • My hardware just works.  No searching for a scanner driver and then finding that the installer dumped a bunch of crapware onto my computer.  I just plug my scanner in and start scanning!
  • Installing applications is a breeze.  The Add/Remove programs feature is amazing!  Never again will I have to search for some freeware version of what I need - It's ALL freeware, and it's just a click away!

My big reservation before was all the great software I had - like Photoshop, Premiere, etc.  After working with GIMP and Kino for a while, I'm starting to get used to them now.

I have to admit - I haven't wiped XP from the laptop yet, but I almost always boot into Ubuntu now when I have a choice.

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