Computers General

Updated the site, got the iPod connected

I’ve updated this site to the latest version of WordPress (the software I run), which also meant updating my gallery software, most of my WordPress plugins, and fixing a corrupted table in my WordPress database.  But now I’m up to date!

My main incentive for getting all up to date was to enable mobile blogging on my iPod Touch.  You say, “can’t you just email yourself posts and add them later?”  Yes, I could.  But the simplicity of just being able to get posts set up exactly how I want them from offline is the Holy Grail in mobile blogging.  Expect to hear from me more frequently.

Computers Work

iPod Touch

So this past Thursday was my company’s Christmas party. As part of our bonus, we all received an iPod Touch. I still love my black 5th generation 60gig iPod. Too much music for the Touch. But being able to blog or surf anywhere with wifi sure is cool. Still getting used to the screen keyboard, but I think this will make me one cool PDA.


Coming attractions

I’ve been terrible about posting lately.  Sorry.  But there’s a few static pages that I want to get up in the near future.  A page about my nerdy projects (MAME cabinet, MythTV box, etc).  Improvements to the movies page.  Also a page about pro audio.

Feel free to suggest content you’d like to see here.


MythTV is Back!

MythTVAfter the hard drive died in May, the MythBox has been in a constant state of disarray. First, I couldn’t get a reasonably current Linux distribution to install (for a variety of reasons, different for each distro I tried). Then, I finally got MythDora 3.2 installed correctly and I had no sound. Turns out the audio chip in my TV tuner card has been depreciated. No luck trying to get it back.

I decided that the no audio problem meant it was time to break down and buy a new TV tuner. My old STB TV tuner has been with me since early 1999 and was ready for retirement. I purchased a Hauppauge PVR-150 hardware MPEG2 encoding TV tuner from for under $60 shipped. The PVR-150 is identical to the very popular PVR-250, except that many components that were separate chips on the 250 have been integrated together on the 150. Functionally, they’re identical.

Now Myth is back up and happily recording. Now if we only got more TV channels . . .

I would like to add a DVD+RW to the machine still, but that can wait for a super sale. I want to try out MythArchive.

Computers Work

Great story about interviewing from the Daily WTF

Interview By Proxy
From Stephan …

After digging through a pile of resumes for a junior developer position, I settled on a few for an in-person interview. When the day came around for one particular candidate’s interview, the receptionist told me that there were two people in the waiting room wanting to see me. By all accounts, a husband and wife. That was a bit confusing, but I called them into a meeting room and had the following conversation …

Stephan: So what is it that I can do for you?
Man: Yes, we have come for the interview.
Stephan: Interview? For the programming position?
Man: Yes, we come to do interview for our son Rajib.
Stephan: Excuse me? You’re here on his behalf?
Man: Yes, we do interview. He’s very good boy and he do good job to you.
Woman: Yes, very good boy.
Stephan: Ummm … err … I normally talk to candidates directly …
Man: Yes, we here for him. You interview with us.

I wasn’t really sure what to do, so I did the interview. I asked all the technical questions I had and I’m happy to report that not only were they answered very well, but Rajib was apparently more than willing to work long hours, be a team player, and contribute a lot. After all, his father told me so. But unfortunately for Rajib, an *actual* candidate turned up and secured the position.


Computers Work

How to Erase a Dead Hard Drive

It’s data security. Digital Sandbox style. Hey, we couldn’t get the hard drive to load, but we wanted to make sure that the user’s personal data was gone. This is what happens when engineers put their heads together. And have access to fire.

Warranty void if seal broken Cutting her open Torching the drive The final result . . . pretty

Computers Faith

vtONE site redesign

vtONEI just finished a redesign of the vtONE site. Take a look and let me know what you think. And yes, I borrowed extensively from the recent redesign of this site.

Computers Music

Meet Marzipan

iPod VideoNow that I’ve had her for a week, it’s time for me to introduce the newest member of the family. Meet Marzipan. She’s a 60 gigabyte black iPod Video, named after the Homestar Runner character of the same name. Yes, all my computers have Homestar Runner names.

  • Homestarrunner: the wireless network with WPA encryption
  • Coach-Z: my laptop–Dell Precision Workstation M60
  • The Cheet: Myth box–small Shuttle, hard drive is currently dead
  • Trogdor: my desktop–Athlon XP 2000+
  • MarzipanThe King of Town: the heart of Project 503, my arcade machine–Dell PIII 450
  • Strongbad: Konica-Minolta Magicolor 2300 DL network printer
  • Marzipan: 60 GB iPod Video
  • Homsar (retired): my original Dell Precision M60, which sucked. Horribly.
Computers General Virginia Tech

What’s in a name?

A bolt in the blueA question I get frequently is “What is a bolt in the blue?” Since I’ve been known to give bad answers, I’m hoping that this post will clear up the confusion. First of all, I’ve been using variations on “bolt in blue” to identify myself online since 1997. The story of where I learned the phrase goes back a few years farther, back to fourth grade.

When I was in fourth grade, one of my previous year’s teachers, Mrs. Weis, enlisted my help with several of her projects that she wanted done on the computer. There are so many stories that I could tell about Mrs. Weis that are funny and crazy, but one of the things that she wanted us to learn from her was to do “random acts of kindness”. She modeled these random acts of kindness with her own life, often leaving goodies for all the other teachers in their mailboxes, with some kind of note attached. She enlisted my help with one of these notes, which simply read “Guess from who? A bolt from the blue.” I designed a flyer that featured a lightning bolt in the background and printed her lots of copies, probably to my parents’ dismay, as our newfangled color inkjet printer got a workout. I liked the phrase, but incorrectly remembered it as “a bold in the blue”. Not that there’s much difference, but Mrs. Weis is a master at using old expressions, so I’m sure she had it right.

A few years later, I needed an identity for use on this new thing called the internet. After a short lived run with another identity, I wanted to pick something I could hang onto for a while. Somehow, “a bolt in the blue” popped into my head. Since then, I’ve used variations on it for all kinds of online aliases. Especially with “from” becoming “in”, the phrase has come to be uniquely mine. After nearly a decade, it very much feels like its mine.

What does the phrase actually mean? Phrase Finder suggests that it means surprise. says it means “a sudden, unexpected event”. It’s an older idiom that was used by several authors, starting around 1840. I’ve been told that I’m full of surprises, so I think the phrase fits me well. And I love pictures of lightning striking. The phrase is really supposed to be about lightning striking while the sky is cloudless and blue, but I’m sticking with the storm photos. They’re just so cool–high contrast, with a purple, almost ultraviolet glow.


So tempting

Many of you know that even though my warranty replacement Dell Precision M60 laptop has been a great machine, I’d love to have a Powerbook. Today, Apple announced a new laptop, sporting an Intel dual core processor, to be released in February. The new MacBook Pro looks hott, and at $1999 or $2499 is very tempting. Depending on what the final specs are, I may have to buy my first mac.