Dust Off Your Running Shoes

The snow is melting, the weather is warming, the daylight is no longer on the wane. Dust off your shoes and run.

I have lofty running goals for this year. A goal is not goal however, until it is written down. Therefore:

  1. I will run a 5k in under 20 minutes
  2. I will run a 10k in under 45 minutes
  3. I will run the Top of Utah Marathon
  4. I will get my wife to run with me in at least 3 races
  5. I will compete in the following events
    • Red Cross Run For Red 5k (Mar 8 )
    • Provo City 5k (Apr 5)
    • Salt Lake City 1/2 Marathon (Apr 19) [tentative]
    • Orem Firefighter’s 5k (Jun 14)
    • Wasatch Back Relay (If I can find a team) (Jun 20-21)
    • Run Through the Lavendar (Jun 28)
    • Freedom Festival 10k (Jul 4)
    • Deseret Morning News 5 or 10k (Jul 24)
    • Top of Utah 1/2 Marathon or Hobble Creek 1/2 Marathon (Aug 23)
    • Top of Utah Marathon (Sept 20)
    • BYU Cougar Run (Oct 2008 TBA)
    • Thanksgiving 4mi (Nov 27)

Bring on the Icy Hot.


Photography 101

Lesson 1: How to take blurry pictures.

  1. Set camera on low ISO setting
  2. Take action shots
  3. ???
  4. Profit!

Apparently cameras have this thing called ISO…and all this time I thought ISO was a disk image on your hard drive…how silly of me. My lack of photog skills has produced a fantastic flickr photo set documenting (blurrily) my latest trip to the Utah Jazz game. Rather than enjoying the game from my usual lofty perch, I was lucky enough to be seated on row B (thanks Pop!) right behind the Jazz bench.

More about the game tomorrow. For now you can browse the photos on flickr (remove eye-glasses before viewing…you won’t notice the difference).


These Are A Few Of My Favorite Memes

In honor of the holiday season, and in true i-have-nothing-original-to-blog-about-so-i’ll-do-a-top-X-list-post style, here are my favorite internet memes from days yonder. From my tubes to yours (there’s a joke about an surrogate motherhood in there somewhere), enjoy:

5. The Rick-Roll (a family favorite). Have you ever been tricked into clicking a link that led to a video clip of the Rick Astley video “Never Gonna Give You Up”? If so, then you’ve been Rick Roll’d! Why anyone would ever be annoyed by this is beyond me…I love Rick Astley and that song is an anthem to my youth.

More after the jump… Continue reading


In The Mind Of A Geek

For better or worse, I have an active brain. I was starkly reminded of this when I received an email this morning:

These rocket scientists are concreting solid steel pillars to stop vehicles from parking on the pavement outside a sports bar downtown Bugtustle, KY. They are cleaning up at the end of the day.
How long do you think it will be before they realize where THEIR vehicle is parked?

First of all, this is email spam hilarity at it’s finest! Most people would read the witty comment, look at the picture and have a nice chuckle whilst they merrily carry on with their morning. Not me!

First I wondered if this picture was real and I immediately set out on snopes.com to do some sleuthing. Not finding anything there I started looking for signs of Photoshopping…do the shadows look right, are there any off-colored pixels? Convinced that the photo was probably real, I began to wonder about the construction and installation of the pillars. Maybe they were removable or maybe they were on hydraulics and could retract into the ground (I saw that in a really cool movie once).

In the end, I decided to do what any self-respecting geek would do, fire up Photoshop, move the van, see if it would fit between the 2 pillars in the foreground. Sure enough:

They may have to pull their side mirrors in, but they’re far from helplessly trapped.

UPDATE (which really makes things worse): I failed to account for the viewing angle in my original analysis. Because I am viewing the image in perspective, I need to account for the difference in size between objects in the background and objects in the foreground. With that said, I measured the width of a sidewalk tile at the front of the van and one at the back of the van. I averaged the two and came up with my van position base scale (VPBS). I then measured the width of a sidewalk tile between the 2 pillars. The foreground tiles were 119% the size of the VPBS tiles so I increased the width of the van proportionally and came up with this:


Now we’re talking about a seriously tight squeeze, but I still believe the van was able to escape without incident.

In the end, the joke seemed less funny. Maybe I should have glanced at it, chuckled and went on about my business like everyone else did.


Earliest Occurring Emoticon?

According to Wikipedia (and we know it’s true if it’s on Wikipedia):

The creator of the original ASCII emoticons : ) and :(, with a specific suggestion that they be used to express emotion, was Scott Fahlman; the text of his original proposal, posted to the Carnegie Mellon University computer science general board on 19 September 1982 (11:44) …

Well, after a tip from my crack investigative team (thanks Atticus), I found this reference in the New Testament:

More specifically, the reference is from the KJV Bible and can be found in Acts 10:36

I argue that this is the earliest use of the smiley emoticon and was indeed used as an expression of emotion — in this case: Glory, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord type of emotion. It is generally believed that this text was written between 60 and 80 A.D. which precedes Mr. Fahlman’s post by about 1900 years. There is some debate as to who authored the Acts but evidence suggests that the author was Luke the Physician. Therefore, let us attribute the modern day smiley emoticon to Luke rather than Mr. Fahlman (sorry Scott).


Pro Tip Of The Day – Apache Startup Error

I run Apache on my local machine so I can develop web applications in a self-contained environment. I encountered a strange problem the other day when tried to start the Apache service:


First of all, what an incredibly un-helpful message. The details also proved less-than-enlightening:


Mmmkay. Thanks for that. I know exactly what the problem is now and I can easily go about fixing it…NOT. msvcr71.dll is the C++ runtime library so it’s not like that narrows down my problem at all. I do know however…that it has something to do with the C++ code. Gee thanks.

Well if anyone is experiencing the same problem, let me save you the hours of fruitless Googling that I had to endure and just tell you what the problem was. I had a VirtualHost whose DocumentRoot pointed to a networked drive that was not currently connected. All I had to do was re-connect the network drive and bingo! Apache started up without a complaint.

A plea to application developers everywhere: Please, for the love of Blaise Pascal, write more informative error messages! How hard would it have been to say: “Hey idiot, you’re trying to use a network drive that isn’t currently connected!”. Instead I get all sorts of useless (but awesome) information about ModVer’s, AppVer’s and Offsets! I love geeky error dumps as much as the next guy…but for crying out loud…toss me at least one piece of useful debugging information along the way.


6 Ways to Pimp Your Media Center PC

If you checked my flickr stream recently you probably saw some pictures of a beautiful Home Theater PC. My friends and I got a crazy idea to start a new company that will build, install and support home theater PCs. Rather than building our prototype model we decided to buy a pre-built system just to see what components, hardware and techniques the “pros” used. After extensive research we decided to buy our system from PCAlchemy who seems to be a leader in HTPC systems and hardware. We chose their XTE system because we wanted a fairly impressive high-end system that we could use for demonstrations.

Well the system arrived a few weeks ago and has been nothing but headache, anger and frustration ever since. PCAlchemy used the Intel DP35DP motherboard which sports on-board Hi-def audio powered by the Sigmatel chipset. When we first powered up the system I could not have been more disappointed with the sound quality. Regardless of the audio source or quality the playback was stuttered and crackly (is that a word?). I tried everything I could think of to resolve the issue including BIOS updates, driver updates, system reconfiguration, cable replacements and hammer smashing (OK…so it was my mental hammer mentally smashing the thing into little ice-cubed size chunks). I even disabled the on-board audio and installed a SoundBlaster Audigy card to try and narrow down the problem. The SoundBlaster card produced the exact same results…leaving me even more mystified. At this point I’m hoping PCAlchemy lives up to their customer service reputation and helps me get the issue resolved. Last week they were busy fleeing for their lives from the California wildfires so hopefully this will be the week things get fixed. Until then this thing is not an HTPC…it’s an HTPoC (as in HT Piece o’ Crap).

Audio problems aside, I’m liking the HTPC concept very much and I think Vista Media Center is as good a software package as you’re going to find. If you are considering a Vista Media Center PC let me suggest a few additional tweaks and software packages that will turn your system into the ultimate HTPC.

  1. Enable “Gallery” (or DVD Library) view in Vista Media Center. I guess Microsoft (and the MPAA) doesn’t want you storing DVD content on your hard drives so this feature is disabled by default. If you plan on ripping DVDs to your hard disk you’ll want to enable the Gallery view in Media Center. This Microsoft KB article has instructions on how to do it.
  2. Because you’re putting DVDs on your hard drive, you’ll need a good movie collection management application. The free Media Center plugin MyMovies will fit the bill nicely. Features include: DVD collection management and playback, indexing of movies using online data (coverart, movie synopsis, actor information etc), multiple client support and DVD ripping from within Media Center. Unfortunately the DVD ripping feature will only work with un-encrypted DVDs which leads me to my next item…
  3. SlySoft AnyDVD. AnyDVD will remove DVD copy protection on-the-fly allowing you to use nearly any DVD ripping application to store DVD content on your hard drive (including the aforementioned MyMovies plugin). Buy it, install it, love it.
  4. CCCP. No, I’m not talking about the former communist regime. CCCP is the Combined Community Codec Pack which is a solid, reliable codec pack with support for every video and audio format you’ll ever likely need. The most compelling reason to install CCCP is for its excellent H.264 and MPEG Transport Stream (TS) support. HD anyone?
  5. WebGuide. WebGuide adds Slingbox-type functionality to your Vista Media Center for free! Just install and configure the application and you’ll have the ability to remotely view live TV, watch and schedule TV programs and manage your audio, pictures and videos from any web-accessible browser (including mobile phones).
  6. Ninan. I have a love/hate relationship with Ninan. I love the idea but I hate the oft-buggy implementation. Until I can set up a linux machine running HellaNZB, however, Ninan will have to do. So what is it doing exactly? Well, Ninan is a binary news downloading program that uses the popular NZB format. Ninan will automatically download, repair, extract and categorize binary Usenet posts. Because I don’t own a Tivo *gasp* I regularly use Usenet to timeshift my favorite television shows — Ninan has made this process easy. I have set up Ninan to download my TV shows to a “watched” folder in Media Center so all my shows, regardless of origin, are now available from one convenient location. If you want to use BitTorrent to accomplish the same thing, might I suggest Ted. UPDATE 11/20/2007: Ninan released version 1.1.4 a few days ago which fixed many of the problems plaguing the 1.1.3 version. Way to go guys! I <3 Ninan again.

By itself, Vista Media Center is a good software package…but if you’re looking for the Ultimate Home Theater PC you’ll need a little more. I hope these recommendations help. Happy HTPCing!

Special thanks to Grant Shipley for first introducing me to MyMovies, CCCP and Ninan (although I don’t think I should thank him for Ninan just yet…remember there’s still that whole love/hate thing going on).