Ted Leung on the air: Open Source, Java, Python, and ...
One of the things that got stolen along with our laptops was the USB charging cable for my Jabra Bluetooth headset. I have a "normal" charger, so I was just resigned to the loss of the little wire and the accompanying inconvenience. While rebuilding the Mac, I discovered that Jabra had issued a firmware upgrade for the headset that might improve its performance with Skype. Unfortunately, upgrading the firmware required the USB cable. I popped open a new tab in Firefox, and started browsing around trying to find a place that would sell me a replacement. Google turned out to have no answers at all on this particular topic. As a last resort, I send a message to the tech support address on the Jabra website. After a brief e-mail exchange, the support folks were happy to send me a replacement cable at no extra charge. The cable arrived very quickly because it was so light it could go first class mail.
I'll definitely be looking at a Jabra when it comes time to replace that headset...
I have a second telephone line which I am paying way too much for. For several months I've been meaning to do something about it, and I think I'm piling up enough momentum to do something about this. From what I can tell, the folk who read this blog are pretty technically savvy, so I'd like to know whether you are using Vonage (or a similar service), what your experience has been, and what your recommendations would be in terms of provider, plan, hardware, hacks, etc.
Here are some things that are important to me:
- VoiceMail as E-Mail - I am horrible at returning voicemail - I hate the phone pad interface to voicemail, and I want to manipulate that stuff from my computer.
- Caller ID - So I don't have to talk to spammers, I mean, telemarketers
- Call Forwarding that tries a list of alternate phone numbers before dumping to voice mail, and the ability to turn this on from a web page - I always forget to forward my phone
- The ability to dial phone numbers from my computer - that means a Mac.
- Cost of the service is a factor, and free long distance is pretty much mandatory
- I want a solution that doesn't tie up my computer or that will degrade because I've got both cores in the MacBook Pro maxxed out doing compiles, running tests, or rendering in Aperture.
- Ability to keep my existing phone number
What are you using and why?
I am not a physically large person -- in fact a new acquaintance of Julie's apparently described me as a "petite Chinese man". In any case, my stature impacts the amount of stuff that I can comfortably carry, and as the Washington Post notes [ via Merlin ], we Americans are hauling more and more stuff around with us.
As a bookish youth, I hauled lots of books (required and extracurricular) to and from school. I remember having to replace bookbags because they were destroyed. I have no idea of how I'd stack up against today's kids, although I do know that a friend's twelve year old has a 22 lb backpack for school. I watched while the bag got put on the scale.
It's definitely the case that the longer I am going to be away from the house, the more I carry. Living on an island, and having the associated ferry ride and waiting time definitely means that I want to have stuff to keep me occupied. Kick that up a notch if I then am going on to an airport.
I wrote a bit about my bag/carrying setup last year, but a few things have changed. The eVest is still going strong, especially during the cooler parts of the year. The thing that's changed is that a decent portion of the time, I am packing a growing collection of camera gear. There is no way that I'm going to get my camera gear into one of the two main compartments of a Brain Bag. I could just dump everything in there, but the thought of all the equipment jumbling around in there just isn't going to make it. So I needed a camera bag, which for now is a Lowepro Slingshot 200 AW. This is an over the shoulder bag, which means that I can't carry it and the Brain Bag. The laptop bag that I was using works great in conjunction with the Brain Bag, but it's just marginal as a standalone laptop bag, which was fine when I bought it. Since I can't use the Brain Bag as often, I needed a different solution. I have a very nice Google laptop bag, which I've tried once. It was serviceable, but there were a few things that I didn't really like about it. Part of the Search Champs schwag was a Timbuk2 messenger style laptop bag, which is what I am going to try next.
Current weight: Camera bag 9lbs, Laptop bag 13lbs. I'm definitely carrying.
A few weeks back, news of the Nikon D50 digital SLR leaked onto Engadget and Gizmodo. I was moderately interested in this, because someday I hope to get back into photography, and SLR's are of interest. Last week it was discovered that Nikon is encrypting the white balance data in the RAW files generated by their high end D2X and D2H SLR's. Apparently this is causing problems with Photoshop support. Nikon has since tried to clarify their position on this. but unfortunately it doesn't look like they are going to change their position. The tone of their response is quite condescending, since you need to be a "bona fide software developer" (whatever that is) in order to have a dialogue with the company..
The encryption problem doesn't affect the D50, but when you buy an SLR, you are buying into the ecosystem of lenses, flashes, battery packs, etc. The body is not the only cost, and people do occasionally upgrade bodies. Features from high end bodies find their way into lower end bodies over time. The last thing I want to do is get locked into the Nikon ecosystem and then wake up one morning and find out that all new generation Nikon bodies are encrypting parts of my photos. Nikon already has plenty of lockin via the lenses and other peripherals. Trying to get lockin on my data (the photos) is over the line.
Fortunately, I have a choice. We've been a Canon household, and while I was impressed by some reviews that I read about the D70, the encryption episode has pretty much guaranteed that I'll be steering far away from Nikon products for the foreseeable future.
I haven't been paying any attention at all to video games, but a few weeks ago, I happened to see a Sony PSP in person, and I was pretty impressed. The form factor kind of reminded me of a Newton MessagePad 2100, but it was lighter, faster, and I hate to say it, cooler. The image quality was really good, and I was impressed before I learned that there was 802.11 inside. And I was done for when the owner showed us SpiderMan2 playing on it. The only question I have is whether it's hackable enough...
Julie has posted some musings on the What's in your bag meme. I find this kind of stuff really interesting, because you get ideas for how to improve your own setup. Since I'm travelling a lot more than I used to, I"m always looking for tips. Back in the Usenet days there was a thread that was about what you carried in your pockets, or maybe as much as a fanny pack. The flickr meme is the upgraded for digital photography version.
I have the topic on the mind since I'm getting ready to pack for PyCon. Unfortunately, our camera is broken and I don't really have the time to do a nice layout of my bag(s), so a few short tips.
I have three levels of "bag", depending on how far I'm going, and how long I'll be away from home.
Level 1: A ScotteVest. I have one of the 2nd generation models, and I wish I could think of an excuse to get the fleece version. This has been a huge benefit when I am traveling. I put everything into it and then just put the coat into the x-ray machine and walk through. All handheld sized gadgets have a home in the vest. I usually wear another coat over top of the vest since I am always cold, and it reduces the geek factor somewhat.
Level 2: A now discontinued Tom Bihn shoulder bag (I can't even remember the model name). This is a thin bag that hold the computer and a few key accessories.
Level 3: I drop the level 2 bag into one of the two compartments of a Tom Bihn Brain Bag, a capacious backpack. I then load all the rest of the cables, etc into a Tom Bihn Snake Charmer. That leaves the other compartment for papers or whatever else I might need to carry.
The rest of the contents aren't particularly exciting, but if you travel a lot you might be interested in something I call the "make friends in the airport kit". Invariably there are never enough power outlets wherever you go. So I carry a very small power strip that is a combination of a Radio Shack 3 outlet tap and a Cables To Go 1 Foot Outlet Saver extension cord. You plug the tap into the Outlet Saver, and you now have 3 outlets where there used to be one. It's pretty handy at conferences too. Here's a phonecam picture of that.
Long time readers will know that I've been nosing around for a Bluetooth headset for quite some time. I was looking at the Jabra BT250 series, but the reviews seemed uneven. The Nextlink Bluespoon AX has looked like a candidate -- the reviews I've seen are pretty good. Then I saw the Motorola HS820, which also got good reviews. Today Erik Thauvin posted his mini-review of the Jabra BT800, which looks pretty promising. One of these days I'm going to take the plunge.
I'm looking for a headset that I can use both with my Nokia 6600 and with iChat A/V and Skype on the Mac. The primary usage mode will be with the computer, although being able to use the cell phone simultaneously is important to me as well.
Also, readers of Julie's blog will know that our digital camera has met its demise. So we are looking for a new camera -- the criteria are mostly reasonably small size, fast shutter lag, and a longer zoom. Right now the leading candidate is the new Canon A520/510 (reviews here and here). It's not Digital Rebel or D70, but Julie's done a great job on photos for her blog with a far less capable camera (Canon S10).
Suggestions on either of these counts would be welcome.
Last year I wrote about my experience with the Shure E3C headphones, which I ultimately returned. After my adventures at Zeitgeist, I decided that I had worked up enough courage to try the Etymotic ER6i headphones. A number of people have written that these headphones are much better at blocking out noise, so I've been curious. I did try on a pair of the Bose noise canceling headphones at an Apple store, and they didn't seem to block as much noise as I would have liked, and they have the drawback of being quite large and requiring a battery. So, I ended up back at Microphone Solutions, which matched Buy.com's lower price, and whom (despite last year's experience) I knew would honor the 30 day money back guarantee. I got the ER6i's which are tuned for small MP3 players like the iPod, and claim a higher degree of noise isolation (compared to the regular ER6)
The sound isolation is very good at home. On the day that I got them, I had Michaela jumping up and down and yelling right in front of my face, and I didn't hear her at all. The iPod was set on a low volume setting, which seemed promising. The acid test was last week's trip to the Bay area, which included trips on ferries and airplanes, and a stay in the OSAF offices, which are a large open area. I was listening to a lot of IT Conversations, which has the pauses in conversation, during which I was able to pick up noise from my surroundings. Playing music at a relatively low volume took care of most of those noises. I noticed significant (to me) reduction of airplane noise just by having the phones in the ears. I've gotten over the hurdle of licking the flanged ends to get a better fit, and I haven't yet tried the foam earpieces, but so far I'd have to say that the noise reduction is better than the Shure's. I think that the Shure's had slightly better sound, but I'm willing to accept the tradeoff. The Etymotics seem to insert more easily (although the fit is still not perfect -- I really need to try the foam earpieces) and I haven't developed any pain like with the Shure phones.
At this point, I think they're a keeper.
- In order to be effective for my landline use, I need an amplifier (with a mute button), a feature that I have on my wired GN Netcom headset.
- I'd like to have confirmation that it works w/ my equipment -- Nokia 6600, iChat, and landline -- I don't want to be on the bleeding edge for that.
- The headset is kind of ugly
I was also able to tunnel
- Setup the modem using the Bluetooth Setup Assistant
- At the section where it talks about accessing the internet using the phone:
- Use Nokia GPRS CID1 script
wap.voicestream.comas the phone number
Go to the Network Prefences Panel
- Push the PPP options button on the PPP tab of the Network Preferences
- Send PPP echo packets - On
- Use TCP header compression - Off
sshover port 80, so that I can use
sshport forwarding via T-Zones.
ssh -p 80is your friend. Of course the GPRS is slow enough that the encryption does make things pretty slow. This is one area where I feel a little disappointed. Next up on my list to try: Sailing Clicker -- so that my IRC, iChat and other status will update based on my location. I'm also looking for a decent Bluetooth headset that I can also use with iChat. From what I can tell Jabra's Freespeak BT250 seems to be the leader but I'd be interested in opinions on this.
become rude to make a phone call without first checking via sms. [this is becoming more and more the case in europe also]I would love it if this became the etiquette here in the US as well. For all telephone calls, not just cell calls. People seem to believe that they have the right to call you simply because you have a telephone.