Dodo Birds Of Linux History

I was sorting out a pile of old CDs this morning and found my first linux install discs, in spiffy looking cardboard:

They were researched, greatly wished for, highly anticipated, and a huge letdown. Continue reading

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Consumer Fake Out: Your Nightlights Are Lying To You

This past week I picked up a couple of cheap LED nightlights at Marden’s ($1.99 for a two-pack) and had to take them apart, of course, as I am a self-respecting geek, and because I was at one time mildy obsessed with running LEDs off line power. I guess that hasn’t quite worn off.

This all has led me to two conclusions:

  1. American consumers are suckers
  2. Chinese are either idiotic electrical engineers or brilliant social engineers, or both

Actually, both of those are not entirely deserved, nor totally fair, but read on for the full tear-down. Continue reading

Sort-Of-Weekly Photo: Biddeford From The Road

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Here are some photos taken from my Drive-To-Work collection, which (usually) are random photos of random things I’ve taken – you guessed it – on my drives to work and back. Bonus points if you know exactly where these are taken! Continue reading

Weekly Photo: Dusk At Spring Point

IMG_0697

Here are some photos from dusk at Spring Point in June, 2009. It’s a beautiful time of day at a beautiful place – even with the oil tankers. I’ve got a couple more tanker-free photos after the break.

Continue reading

Weekly Photo: 4th of July 2009

Boston Fireworks

Here’s some photos from the 2009 4th of July fireworks in Boston. Photos like these are difficult to come by with a slow point-and-shoot.
Continue reading

The Joys Of Deleting

There is an odd social pressure to collect stuff. This may be due to our tendency to buy the latest and greatest in good consumer fashion, and it may be due to our belief that more information is good information and you can never have too much (not true). It is likely a combination of both and a variety of other factors which I have overlooked.

In any case, we both consume and store more and more information every day and most technology is concerned with getting it to you faster and cheaper, whether it be your smartphone, your media server, or Gmail. I think that is wrong. Continue reading

Weekly Photo: Another Sunset

Sunset #86

Yeah, another sunset – that’s what time I was driving home that time of year and not in class. This time from Fort Hill in Gorham.

Weekly Photo: Sunset, Lighthouse, and Duckies

Yet Another Sunset

Here’s another photo dug from the depths of my Flickr account, which I think I shall attempt to make weekly occurrence. This is a Spring Point sunset from 2006. No editing, what you see is what came out of my Canon A520.

Rotary Encoders Are Mostly Awesome

Rotary encoders are awesome because they function like knobs – a staple of user interface which needs no explanation – but ¬†electrically they generate discrete button presses, like pushing the Up or Down tuning button. They are reduced to mostly awesome by some designers who apparently don’t know how to use them correctly.

Case in point: the Kenwood VR405 surround receiver I recently picked up from the side of the road.

It’s a cheap and basic surround reciever, but it works (other than missing the volume knob), it was free, and it has a cool-looking rotary encoder on the front panel. Rotary encoders are like the bling of tactile input devices. Buttons are nice and all, but things that spin are just so much cooler. They also happen to work really well for linear controls like volume and tuning, for which they have been used for decades and still should be more than they are. (I’m looking at you, designers of 1980-s electronics-with-no-knobs and of infernal-car-stereos-with-button-densities-approaching-infinity.)

However, Kenwood got it completely wrong on this model: the input selector is rotary and the tuning/everything else “Multi Control” buttons are Up/Down buttons. Unlike rotary selector switches of yore this input selector wheel has no detent to tell your finger it has reached the next setting. This makes changing inputs quickly is very easy but stopping on the right one is very difficult. And tuning? Click, click, click, click, click, as fast as your finger can push the button you can change to the next frequency. Tiring. Why on earth didn’t they use the up/down buttons for the input selection and the rotary for tuning, like, you know, old-school tuners used to be? Some of the pricier models in the V/VR series were slightly better because they had a rotary encoder for both the Input and Multi controls, but Kenwood could have saved a couple pennies and given users a less frustrating UI at the same time by just using rotary for the Multi Control and buttons for the Input Selector across the whole line.