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.

The Finer Points of Podcasts with RSSOwl

Since I’ve been using Google Reader for my feed-reading needs the last few months, I have been spoiled by Reader’s nonchalant handling of just about any feed I throw into it. It’s also available anywhere the internet is, which is very convenient for keeping breaks at work useful and non-boring. (The breaks that don’t involve food, anyway.) I also like the fact that “just about any feed” includes podcasts, so I have a convenient way to keep track of those at work as well.

Unfortunately, podcasts with Reader rely on frequent browser use – something I’m trying to limit – and a 6′ headphone tether to the computer. There is also no good way for Reader to sync with a portable device so podcasts can be heard sans computer with direct net connection.

My solution is to use RSSOwl with a couple custom filters and a custom batch script to sync to a removable USB device (my phone). Here’s how to do the magic and make your life easier.

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Rainy So. Freeport Harbor

So. Freeport Dinghys 2

We went down to Harraseeket Lobster Co. for anniversary supper yesterday, and my wife was kind enough to tool around the cold, rainy, wet wharf for a few minutes so I could take some pictures. A couple more after the break!

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Repairing A Mic Stand Adjustment Bolt Thingy

There’s got to be a better term for those little knobs that you tighten (or loosen) to adjust mic stands. And this is actually about making new ones for replacements. Anyway. A couple of these knobs stripped or went missing and here’s how I put wooden knobs on standard (cheap) hardware store bolts to replace them. Continue reading

On Vacuum-Pumping Water Out Of Large Things Filled With Water

If you, like I, have a boat full of water (and sticks, and leaves, and dirt, and other crud I was scrubbing out of it), then you also may not want to just tip it up and let all that trickle through the hull drain at a slow an increasingly clogging rate. Never mind the residue left inside the hull.

My trusty garden-hose siphon was not going to cut it this time, either. I could have used a bailer… but that’s just not as much fun. And no, thank you, I didn’t want to use my trusty Rainbow vacuum cleaner to pump a gallon at a time again (an often dicey and tedious prospect). And more splashy-messy. So I used good ol’ R2VAC2 as a suction pump/super-siphon starter.

Continue reading