How did I spend my three-day weekend? I organized. Picking up where I left off over the Christmas break, I cleaned up piles laying around the basement earmarked for donation, disposal, or consolidation. The Scout is loaded up with a pile of crap to go to the dump (along with our Christmas tree, which never got taken by the County even though it was on the curb within the week specified). I moved my new tool chest, a gift from my father, into a new open space and consolidated two toolboxes, two tool caddies, an entire workbench, and one shelf of handheld electrical tools into one easy-to-access area. I pulled an ancient section of pegboard out of the attic, painted it white, and backed the second half of the tool bench to get oddly shaped and easily lost items off the bench and into view. I still have a mountain of small hardware bags that need organization as well as a crate of loose hardware in jars from my father, so I’m going to have to buy a plastic divider box or two and sort through all of that to get it out of the way. It’s kind of a shock to go down there and see so much open space again.
I also inherited a couple of old Macs from work: a white G4 iBook and a G3 Pismo Powerbook, both models I formerly used to own. The iBook may become Finn’s computer (it’s between that and the lampshade iMac) and the Pismo will be my backup OS9 machine. Spurred on by my burst of OCD, I made a Google spreadsheet with all of our house Mac information to keep things straight, and for insurance purposes. In digging through hardware, I found my Powerbook 160 is refusing to start, so I did some sleuthing and found that a dead PRAM battery is usually the culprit–especially since the machine was working when I got it. So I pulled it apart and hunted down a replacement.
I brewed a Nut Brown ale on Saturday night, knowing both my kegs are close to exhaustion. It went easily–it’s hard to fuck up an ale, really–and my starting gravity was only off by .002%. So I should have something new to drink in about four weeks. Next up will probably be another batch of Chinook IPA.
Sunday was game day, and it did not disappoint. I was pleasantly shocked at the outcome of the Patriots/Ravens game, frankly, because I figured it would end like most Baltimore playoff games do, but it’ll be good to see them in the Superbowl again. We had C&G come over to grill up some food and watch the game, and the whole thing was really good. As always, I’m going to be sad to see the season over with, no matter what happens in two weeks.
Meanwhile, with the temperatures plunging into the single digits, we are battling our local mouse population, which has been much more active in the last few months. The first night I put out traps with dabs of peanut butter and we got one kill, but they wised up after that. Last night I made improvements to our arsenal by tying small pieces of chorizo to the bait arms on our traps, and within an hour or two we got another one. There was no other movement after that, so I may need to switch to cheese or some other smelly foodstuff, but it’s nice to know my theory worked.
This totally takes me back.
This year, as in previous years, I got a gift certificate to Best Buy at our holiday Christmas party. I decided to spend it on an AppleTV, something I’ve been looking at buying since they came out in 2007.
Having plumbed the pole in our den with expandability in mind, it was simple to hook up. I had already run extra power and network cabling out there, and the HDMI cable goes right into the back of the TV. Eventually, when I’m able to afford a decent head unit with HDMI input/output, I’ll move everything off the pole and back onto the cabinet and use the head to switch between inputs (FIOS, AppleTV, XBOX). But for now, it works great. It’s resting on the top of the TV right now, but a few strategically placed zip ties should hold it securely until it makes the move.
I set up my Flickr, Netflix, Vimeo, and iTunes accounts in minutes. Picture quality for Netflix was marginal (I tested an episode of Mythbusters, so it may improve with true digital movies, or there may be a setting I’m missing). We sat and looked through Finn’s Flickr set as a family before heading off to bed last night, although we can’t watch videos posted there. Stupid Flash.
Setting up iTunes was pretty easy; it requires activating Home Sharing in iTunes, which then makes it discoverable by AppleTV. Paging through music and movies is easy at that point. One caveat: The furthest back AppleTV can connect with iTunes is version 10.5 (roughly Leopard). Sharing pictures is a little trickier, because it requires finding and enabling a somewhat hidden feature within iTunes to share photos in iPhoto. Once I’d done that, I could browse everything on my hard drive.
The G5 server in our basement has been finicky sharing its iTunes library, requiring multiple library rebuilds, but I found a really easy method for doing so. I did sort out a good way to share video without importing them into iTunes (thereby making iTunes that much slower): deselect the “Copy files to iTunes Media Folder when adding to library” setting in Preferences -> Advanced. I also found that iTunes doesn’t like AVI files, which means we have four years worth of Flip movie files that need to be converted to be shared. Yuck. Fortunately, I finally found a good .m4v converter called Adapter which converts .FLV, .MOV, .AVI and other formats without fucking up the sound, which is a godsend. Now I need to dig out that disc of Venture Brothers episodes and convert them all to .m4v.
The iPhone Remote application was also easy to sync up once I’d enabled Home Sharing, and in a lot of ways it’s easier to use than the supplied remote (which I predict will go missing within a week). It’s simple, it does what it says, no muss or fuss. I haven’t tried any AirPlay features on the set yet, but I’ll give that a try this evening.
One future solution to the sharing problem that I’ve been considering is a NAS box in place of the server. A bunch of research I did yesterday points to two consumer-level products at the $300 price point: the QNAP TS-219 and the Synology DS213. Each are two-bay enclosures with an integrated processor and on-board web service to share files. The most important features I need are AFP, Time Machine compatibility, and iTunes audio and video streaming. The QNAP is missing Time Machine functionality, while the Synology has Time Machine built in and an iTunes server available as an app. I’m a little dubious about the app, but I’m going to do some more research and see what reviews it’s getting. I’d love to be able to ditch the G5 and go with a managed box, especially because a new Intel Mac Pro is north of $2K and I never see them come up on Craigslist.
So, overall I’m very happy with the AppleTV. The ability to stream Netflix movies, access movies and music from our home server, and pull photos down from Flickr is awesome. With a few more tweaks, I think it’ll be perfect.
Cleaning out the basement last weekend, I ran across all my old LEGO plans and bricks. Playing with Finn over the break, I got an urge to put a kit together, so I broke out some of my bricks and got this far in the kit before I had to stop. This is the Galaxy Explorer, one of the first-generation LEGO Space kits they sold, and the beginning of an addiction. I’ve got a bunch of key structural bricks tied up in old models I put together 20 years ago, so I’m going to have to cannibalize those to finish this one off.
One of the many packages I got last week was a repair kit for my speakers, which I figured I’d need over the holidays. The process is pretty simple, and if you understand how speakers work and how fragile they are, it’s not that hard to do.
This is what I started with: you can see the speaker with foam is pretty beat up. It took a putty knife and some delicate work to pry the paper baffle off in one piece, and then a lot of scraping to remove excess glue.
Then I had to cut off the dust cover in order to isolate and center the dome on the magnet. This was the diciest part of the whole thing, because I was cutting over the paper dome with an X-acto knife. I also had to be careful not to nick or cut the wires to the dome.
Those white things are thin plastic sheets which slide down in between the dome and the magnet center.
After letting the glue tack, I pressed the foam around the edges of the dome and then glued the outside edge to the frame. They’re sitting on the bench in the basement overnight, and I’ll be ready to put them back in tomorrow.
File this under IT’S ABOUT GODDAMN TIME: Flickr has introduced their new iPhone App. It’s much easier to see your friends’ photos, take and upload your own photos, integrate with Twitter and Facebook, and apply filters (if you so desire).
Teller is at the vet today, and the news isn’t good. He has a growth of some kind in the back of his throat, which accounts for all the wheezing he’s been doing lately. That’s the good news (that we know what it is). The bad news is that the vet is doubtful we’ll be able to do much for him other than pain management, although she’s going to try a steroid shot to bring the swelling down. We’ll have to do some kind of a consult with a veterinary surgeon to know if there are any options, but she’s not getting my hopes up. It’s hard to imagine life without his warm fur, constant purr, or sharp claws when he gets into his happy place (he kneads with his claws involuntarily, which is sweet but painful). We’ve always joked about life without cats, but I didn’t think it would be this soon–and the house will be much quieter with only the stupid one skulking around.
Update: Bad, bad news. We’re throwing a hail mary pass with steroids, but the prognosis is bleak.
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There’s nothing more satisfying than using a 10-year-old computer to do an important job. I’ve got our old Powerbook G4 here at work crunching fonts from a handful of file formats into OpenType files that we can use anywhere. I’d converted a pile of them a few years go but stopped when the machine I was working on (a twitchy G5 tower) started bombing during processing. The G4 has been chugging along happily for a few hours now, and even though it’s running very hot it hasn’t complained yet. Perhaps I can get all of these legacy files finished and put to bed once and for all.