Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Congrats to CRE824 Winners!

Alas the team from Bridge Worldwide (poorly named Tentpole) didn't win the CRE824 contest, but we did put together one very good entry. The teams who did win were good people and also had a great entry.

There are a few pictures of me up on the CRE824 site--I'm the guy in the yellow shirt who looks like he hadn't slept in about 3 days.

All in all, it was a good time and I'd do it again.

Friday, November 18, 2005

I'm at CRE824

Myself and a small team from Bridge Worldwide are competing in a 24 hour web design competition for the Web Design International Festival 2006. If our team win we will represent the US in an international version of this same contest in France in 2006.

Here's the poorly translated description of what is happening today...

The Webjam Contest is going to be launched at French hour 2:00 p.m. simultaneously in 10 participating countries. You will (normally) be able to find here a way to live with us and in real time these performing and creative next 24 hours.

Check out the site at CRE824, and wish us luck. I'll try posting some media from the event as it unfolds.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Podcasting Setup for under $150 via a USB Mic

I needed to purchase a small podcasting setup for a project at work and I wanted to keep the budget small enough so it would fly “under the radar” of our sleuthy accountants. I'm also an audio snob so I wanted a setup that was at least as good as my home recording setup that I've built over the years for way too much money. (I'm also kind of lazy—I didn't want to drag my home setup into work to record a day or two of interviews.)

What I netted out with was a nice voice recording setup for under $150 (laptop not included.)

First, I picked up the C01U USB Studio Condenser Mic from Samson. It originally listed for about $225, but Amazon or Sam Ash are currently carrying it for $79. It's not a high end microphone, but the fact that the A/D converter is built-in (and it just plugs into a USB port rather than a crappy sound card) makes it one of the cleanest mics I've ever heard. It's very portable too, I just dropped my Dell laptop into one of the few rooms in our office that has a door, and I was ready to roll.

Next I added add a pop filter and a desk stand. I used my Sony studio headphones, but you could grab any decent set of cheap headphones like the Sennheiser HD 202—even for $20 these will be better than your laptop speakers for playback.

For software I highly recommend Audacity. Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. So no matter what kind of computer you have, this will cut the mustard. It also has built in filters for reverb, compression, equalization, etc. Just don't go nuts with it.

That's it. If you ordered all this stuff from Amazon, your total would be somewhere around $140 and you wouldn't be able to tell you weren't recording in a fancy studio. Well, except for the barking dogs, crying babies, and ambulance sirens that are pretty much 24/7 at my house.

Friday, October 21, 2005

PVR Pics (a.k.a NerdAlert)

So, finally. Here's the final 120GB, dual tuner GB-PVR box in all it's glory. In this photo the DVD drive is ejected.

The uber-quiet fan on the left is controlled by a knob under the DVD drive that allows my to turn all the fans down to make the system nearly silent. When the movie is over, crank the fans back up and the system stays cool even though it runs 24/7.

It is awfully big and slightly menacing, but the door in front locks up to keep the kids out. (Although my youngest does have a habit of hiding the keys around the house in very unsuspecting places.)

If your interested in the full story, dig through the old DIY PVR posts and see how this Tivo-ish thing got built. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Another Server Upgrade...

I had to upgrade our servers at NO.2 Games again to fix some lockup problems our Linux box had that I just didn't have the time to trouble shoot. Now we're on a phat system that I can remote desktop into to watch all the processes in real-time.

I still have a few dependent websites to move over, but the process is going fairly smoothly.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bad Day

A really bad day at the office today. Three things I had moved from the "my problem" category to the "not my problem" category returned in thier full glory.

In other news, my wife's blog www.stuntmom.com is proceeding along nicely. I'm quite proud of the quality of her writing. (This from a person who claims not to be able to write.)

So to make this a completely disjointed post, I read today that Nintendo-branded a WiFi Dongle. Go figure.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

My 2nd Tuner is Here...

Alrighty, my 2nd tuner showed up yesterday and got a 6 way splitter (antenna, cable, internet and digital phone are all coax connections in my house.)

Hopefully tonight, I will be able to drop the card in and add a extra 40GB hard drive I have laying around just for MP3 music.

Fun, fun, fun. (Well, geek fun that is...)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

DIYPVR: Adding 2nd Tuner

My plan is to add a Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-150MCE as a 2nd tuner to my GB-PVR setup this week in prep of all the new seasons of shows...

For $65 I'll be able to record two shows at one time or watch a show while I'm recording another one.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Portfolio Updates

I updated my portfolio area with a few graphic projects and a movie script project.

(I hope to digitize some of my early work in the public access TV area and stick it online in the near future. A few bits might hold up well even though our production values were so low in the mid-90's.)

Friday, August 26, 2005

All My MP3s to CDs

I just bought a new car (the Scion tC) that has both an MP3/WMA car CD player and a handy AUX jack in the arm rest. Although I like the idea of taking my MP3 Jukebox with me in my car for long trips, I'm pretty certain that I’d like to get at least 50% of what I listen to in MP3CD format.

So, this weekend I’ll begin another big conversion process, and it seems like only a few months ago I took all my audio CDs to MP3 in the first place.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

DIYPVR: Wireless MediaMPV

A few weekends ago I took my MediaMVP wireless with the help of the Belkin F5D7130 which is both a wireless access point and a range extender. It worked like a charm.

Now I can cut down that 150' long Ethernet cable I strung down the back of my house and get on with listening to my ever growing MP3 collection.

The Server is Up, Yo.

Back to normal. Normalish...

Friday, August 12, 2005

The System is Down, Yo.

Our servers are being moved this weekend, so no email and no sanity until Monday morning.

Long time no post...

After reading my wife's blog that contained an apologetic post about not writing in a while, I thought I'd catch up as well. It's been a busy, busy week at the office, and I'm just now getting to the past three days of email.

I will have to say, if you haven't picked up a copy of ThunderBird lately, you don't know what you are missing. It's up to version 1.05, and the minor improvements keep coming. I've even been following a thread for the ThunderBird 2.0 Roadmap that states that an OpenOffice-like Real Time Spell Checker is on the way.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Kubrick Graffiti

You might have noticed the interactive masthead at the top of this site. It's basically a Flash version of the Kubrick Template's header with a basic drawing script layered in. Not the most impressive piece of code in the world, but for some reason I just can't stop drawing with it.

Keeping in line with Kubrick's open source design, you can download the source code for this little mod here.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Someone owns wwwwwwwwwwwww.com

I accidentally held down the 'w' key on my keyboard and then pressed the 'enter' key. Sure enough, someone owns almost every length of repeating w's on the net. Most of the short ones are different companies, but one place seems to own from about 10 w's on.


...and on and on...


I mean this is crazy. I know URLs are cheap, but who in their right mind would buy 85 W's dot com.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Welcome Ray and Steve!!!

My boss and my co-worker should be stumbling across this half-hearted blog and day now.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

DIYPVR: What's Next?

Well, GB-PVR seems to be getting updates about once every three months so I will definitely continue to keep the software up to date. Also I'd like to explore writing some plug-ins — if I can think of a good idea for one.

Also, if you've read this whole series, you know that I run my PVR of a basic antenna and I really only get seven stations—ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, WB, and two PBS stations. Even with that limited choice of stations, I still find that I need to record two programs at once, or watch and record at the same time. So, my next big purchase will be another PVR-150, but this time the less expensive MCE version because I won't need another remote.

After that, additional hard drive space might be in order, or maybe an HD tuner – of course I'll need an HDTV to make proper use of that.

  • Last time, The MediaMVP.
  • Thursday, July 14, 2005

    DIYPVR: Media Extending with MediaMVP

    First a quick explanation of “Media Extending”(a build on Microsoft's definition...)

    With “Media Extending” you store all your digital media on a Media Center PC — photos, music, videos, live and recorded TV — and bring it all to life throughout your home through a piece of hardware that displays and controls your central Media Center PC.

    One of the other reasons I chose GB-PVR as my TiVo-like software solution was it's ability to be controlled via a relatively inexpensive piece of hardware called the MediaMVP. The MediaMVP can be picked up for about $90 and provides remote access to all your recording, MP3s, photos, etc. that are stored on your GB-PVR enabled PVR.

    So, in my case, my main entertainment center in located on the top floor of my three story home, and I have a small 17” LCD TV and bookshelf audio system on my 1st floor. By running a 100' ethernet cable between the two floors, I am able to stream nearly everything from Live TV to recordings to Internet radio. Currently, I'm in the process of running a second set of audio outs from my MediaMVP to the radio in my kitchen so I can listen my favorite on-line radio station woxy.com throughout the house.

    The MediaMVP isn't the most reliable piece of hardware out there, but since it takes a only a few seconds to boot-up, it's hardly a hassle when it locks or resets. (Which only happens about once a week.) Other than that, the S-Video output is pretty good, and the remote is the same one that came with the PVR-150 so the human interface looks just like my my main PVR.

  • Next time, what's next.
  • Last time, all about the software.
  • Sunday, July 10, 2005

    DIYPVR: The Software

    As I mentioned before, I tried most every free and/or open source TiVo-like software out there for both Windows and Linux before deciding on GB-PVR.

    GB-PVR is a fully featured Personal Video Recorder (PVR), allowing you to schedule TV recordings and view and pause live TV. In additional to this PVR functionality, it also acts as a media center allowing you to watch movies, listen to music and view pictures. GB-PVR also supports specialist hardware decoders including Sigma Designs XCard, Hauppauge PVR350 and Hauppauge MediaMVP, with support the full application including On Screen Display (OSD). GB-PVR also supports multiple tuners, allowing you to record more multiple channels at one time.

    I was a little uneasy running a PVR project on a Windows 2000 install for stability reasons. Try explaining to your wife that you didn't record the last episode of 24 because of the blue screen of death. But I figured that a light install of Win2k with most everything turned off, wouldn't be so bad. It also didn't hurt that I owned the OS, so all the licensing would be legit.

    With the help of nLite I built a tiny install of Windows 2000, service packs, GB-PVR and all other requirements plus on one CD-R. I figured this way, it would be easy to port my PVR to better hardware at a later date if needed.

    GB-PVR setup is pretty straight forward if you stick to the base plugin structure, but there is a lot more functionality available via free 3rd-party plug-ins. My one complaint here is that everybody has a slightly different setup procedure. Some plug-ins get unzipped to the Plugins directory, some to the base directory, some have installers but expect your GB-PVR directory to be the default one. (I guess I should stop complaining and write a standard plug-in installer and give it to all the plug-in authors.)

    I kept the base GB-PVR "Blue" skin on my system, but I did like the looks of the "BlueMCE2" skin which is a port of another PVR software called MediaPortal. Which in it's own right is a clone of Windows XM Media Center Edition. Even with new skins GB-PVR isn't as pretty as Windows XP MCE or MedialPortal, but it is extremely functional for TV guide searching, video playback, and MP3 playback.

    Long story short, it records programs well, and lets me do scheduling from my laptop via it's WebAdmin interface, playback looks better than my Time Warner/Scientific Atlanta DVR box, not to mention the whole thing was cheaper than I imagined.

  • Next up, let's extend the reach with a MediaMPV
  • Last time, the hardware line-up.
  • Monday, July 04, 2005

    DIYPVR: The Hardware

    I had built a TiVo-like box a while back using MythTV as a test just to see what the whole "Build Your Own TiVo" was all about. I used a leftover Pentium 2 mother board and a craptastic ATI TV Wonder VE. It all worked well enough, but it wasn't as good as my TiVo-like box from Time Warner, so I scrapped the idea.

    But when I upgraded my home system last Christmas, I was left with a fairly decent Athlon 2100+ system with 512MB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive just sitting around. (At the time of this post a similar system could be bought new on eBay for under $300.) So, I decided to give it a go--return my TiVo, cancel digital cable, and take a step backwards to "rabbit ear" TV.

    I only wanted to spend about $200 getting there, so I could re-coup those expenses in a few months of a cable-free lifestyle. So, here's my final configuration and costs:
    • Athlon 2100+ system (old computer, $0)
    • 512MB of RAM (old computer, $0)
    • 80GB hard drive for recordings (old computer, $0)
    • TDK DVD-R (old computer, $0)
    • 2U black rackmount case (salvaged from work, $0)
    • Hauppauge PVR150 TV Tuner (Amazon, $89 free ship)
    • Vantec Stealth 120mm case fan (Case-Mod.com, $12 + $2 ship)
    • TERK TV-55 HD Antenna (eBay, $50 + 15 ship)
    • GB-PVR software (Free, but I donated $5 to the project)

    As you can see, I came in under my budget by about $27 and ended up with a pretty nice system. To build one from scratch though, you'd need about $500 which makes it kinda pricey for a hobby.

  • Next time, the software.
  • Last time, the overview
  • Saturday, July 02, 2005

    DIY: My TiVo-like experience with GB-PVR

    A couple of weeks ago I decided that paying $60 a month was too much for cable when all I was watching were sports and prime time shows like Desperate Housewives, 24, Lost, Alias, etc. (Please don't tell anyone that I watch Desparate Housewives.) So I figured that I'd make the switch back to an "old school" antenna setup and save myself about $700 per year.

    But, what I was really going to miss were two things--my TiVo (which was provided by my cable company) and OnDemand movies. TiVo (as most anyone who tried it would say) is freakin' awesome and if I am only going to have 5 channels of TV, I want to be able to pick and choose what I want to watch. For OnDemand, I might pick-up a NetFlix account as see what that's all about.

    So this major life decision prompted me to dig out some old computer parts (in this case an Athlon 2100+ CPU and motherboard and an full height rack mount server case) and start building a PVR.

    After trying MythTV and Freevo (both Linux) I settled on GB-PVR because it would run on Windows 2000 (which I had lying around as well) and I hoped I'd be able to run a few other things on that box to make it more of a video/audio/data server.

    So, over the next few posts, I'll chronicle my experiences with the software/hardware and wrap the whole thing up in one big review.

  • Next time, the hardware.
  • Sunday, June 26, 2005

    Consumer Generated Media

    I'm putting together a PowerPoint about Consumer generated Media for work tomorrow. (I'll complain later about how much time I spend in PowerPoint and Visio instead of doing development.) I really think CGM is a pretty cool concept for the web. Anything from Wikis to UrbanDictionary to more bizarre advertising vehicles like Method's confession booth called ComeClean.

    I've done one top-notch project (yet to be released) for a client that leverages CGM and I hope to do more.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2005

    Monday, Monday.

    I know it's Tuesday, but Monday's are so insane that I have to wait until Tuesday to complain about Monday.

    Anyways, more portfolio updates last night, but still a bunch left to do. Also I have to convert all those portfolio descriptions to CDATA (what's that?) so I can embed links to the stuff I worked on that actually have web sites associated with it.

    I was really surprised to find an IMDB listing and an Amazon Page for the movie "Shark." I worked on this movie in the summer of 1998 (I think) with the director Zak Reeder. Two of my friends--Jon Alexander and Ed Brown--worked as lead editor and 3D effects animator respectively, and I logged all the footage into the Avid and took over editing for a weekend while Jon was out of town. I never expected it to see the light of day, but there it is.

    I guarantee, it's the worst $20 you'll ever spend.

    Saturday, June 18, 2005

    Portfolio Update

    Whew!!! I added most of the fun stuff I've worked on over the past 10 years to my portfolio area. I'm still missing a few games and some non-commercial projects I've worked on, and I have to see what I can say (or probably can't say) from my day job*.

    Of course it's easy to forget about the boring stuff, I'm sure I could dig up at least 20 websites I've either designed or programmed.

    *Since Blogs are all about disclosure, I should say that I'm a Director of Product Development at a medium sized internet advertising agency in Cincinnati, Ohio whose link may or may not be in the colum to the right.

    Friday, June 17, 2005

    StopWilson.com Launches

    After a few false starts, my blog is finally (but barely) off the ground. I still have lots of work to do on the right hand navigation, and I have about 10 years of portfolio items that need to be added.

    Special thanks to Michael Heilemann for his open source Kubrick CSS design. I tweaked it quite a bit to get it to work in Blogger with some help from a few Kubrick for Blogger sites.

    Also, a big thanks to Airtight for their SimpleViewer image viewer for Flash. A few well placed XML tweaks and you might have thought I spent weeks writing a Flash image viewer for my portfolio.