Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Google maps is officially the best website ever

I bore witness to something on google maps that completely blew my mind. It recognizes one-way streets when giving directions. I suppose it makes sense since they get their data from a company who also provides data for car navigation systems, but holy shit, that's cool.

Check it out: One way The other way

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Birthdays in the HRM

Every year, I think about trying to come up with a list of things that somebody can do free on their birthday. Stuff like Baskin-Robbins free ice cream or lunch at Mother Tuckers and things like that. But every year, I forget until it's too late to do anything about it.

Not this year! Let's compile a list. This could be beneficial to anybody who has a birthday coming up. The more things we find, the more we can all get for free. Fuck, I love free shit.

The Montreal Grill

I just found out that the restaurant (or diner, I guess it's a diner) in the basement of the BMO building downtown has its specials online. Pretty cool.

Podcasting and the applications used

I am seriously considering starting up my own podcast. I have pretty much all the gear I would need to do it, short of a three or four channel mixer that would be handy for adding music or switching between two microphones. I am planning to record anything I'd do on my iRiver IFP 799, which is incidentally the same thing that Adam Curry uses for his podcast.

Mine wouldn't necessarily be daily, probably not, but maybe weekly. One piece of software that Curry uses that I would love to be able to use is a Mac-only application called Audio Hijack that can grab the sound output of any other application and record it specifically. I tried some basic recording to see how my microphones sound and used my laptop to play some background music, but I still get the pings and blips of other applications like MSN. I know I could just shut those certain applications down, but even explorer makes noise sometimes. Really, what I would like this ability for is to be able to talk to somebody on the podcast via Skype. Seriously, how cool would that be? I could do phone interviews.

Anyway, if anybody has any suggestions for windows applications that can do the same thing, please respond here or email me.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Time for a new pubcrawl?

So far this year, I've heard no less than three people in seperate situations ask me if there is going to be another spine.cx pubcrawl. I don't see why there can't be if the interest is there, but the last few seemed to be waning in the number of those attending. I am more than willing to organize, if the people will come, but it's hard to get motivated when you've seen more than 100 come out and now you're getting only around 30.

If one is going to happen, now is the time, or at least soon. Spring is in the air, the temperature is rising and St. Patrick's day was just a warm up.

Feel free to use this blog entry to post theme and date suggestions. If TJ reads this, consider this the bat-signal. There's a good chance I will need your t-shirt design services in the near future ;)

EDIT (17 Apr 05): Please continue discussion here, in the forums.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Having lunch on a Sunday afternoon

Right now, I'm sitting in the Blowers Street Paper Chase. I've ordered a club sandwich and a bowl of ginger-carrot soup. I'm listening to another table's conversation about which country of the world has worst bastardized the English language. One says the United States, one says Australia, a third says Canada, and the fourth is actually arguing for England.

Personally, I don't think it should be just about country, but rather region. Actually one of the guys just brought that up. I mean look at Canada; how many dialects are there? Just in Nova Scotia, even. You can easily tell if somebody is from Cape Breton, or the south short just by the way they talk. In England, there have been jokes written about how you can tell from somebody's accent, where they live, to the precision of what street they live on. Anybody else have any thoughts?

Incidentally, the club sandwich was exquisite. More bacon than any other club sandwich I've ever had...and this bacon was excellent. Rich, flavourful tomatoes, and vibrantly green, crunchy lettuce. Deee-licious. And their wireless access is free. That's what I like to hear. Even if you don't have a laptop, you can pay a nominal fee and use their workstations scattered throughout the place.

The coffee's not as good as Uncommon Grounds' coffee, but then, really, what is?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Skype Internet Telephony

I'm sure many of you have heard of Skype. Me too, but I had never really used it until yesterday. Man, was I impressed. I got a friend of mine to give me his skype ID over MSN messenger and then I dialed him up. It was amazingly clear. Computer to computer calls anywhere in the world are free. Free.

They've probably had this for a while, but I just never noticed, but now they have the ability to call actual real phones. It costs money to do that, but it's probably cheaper than making a real long distance call. Basically you go over the internet to the local Skype center in whatever country you're calling and then it makes a local call to the number you wanted. Pretty slick.

Anyone else have a Skype ID? Post 'em in the comments, if you don't mind them being public. Mine is "stevedinn". Give me a call :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Video lottery terminals

On the way into work on the bus this morning, I heard a piece on the news stating that local bar owners are upset about a push by the Nova Scotia government to take away their VLTs. I say good for the fucking government.

Their chief argument is that they would not be able to survive as a business if such a large portion of their income is taken away. If such a large portion of their income is coming from VLTs, then aren't they basically a casino? I think that any place that isn't surviving on their merits as a bar and is just hanging on because they are a place for the gambling-addicted to wallow in their own crapulence, then I don't think they should stick around anyway.

Get rid of the damn VLTs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Nobody will let me buy a wi-fi SD card

I have been wanting a small, portable wi-fi-enabled device since wireless technology has been available. Now that PalmOne has introduced their SD wi-fi card, I’m thinking to myself, “This card + my Zire 72 = unstoppable!” I journey to Futureshop to pick one up. First stop, the digital camera, PDA, & Cell Phone thingy:

“Hello, I’d like a Palm wi-fi SD card please.”

“Sorry, you can only get one in a bundle with a PDA.”

I’m pulling out my wallet. “How much is...pardon?”

“You can only get one with a PDA”.

Fuck.

What is up with that? As it turns out, Staples is the same way. Why can’t I buy this thing by itself? After some googling, I found it on a few websites, but I would rather buy it locally if I can, for obvious reasons. It’s not often I leave Futureshop when the thing I want it still in the store.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Podcasting applications suck

I'm trying to get into Podcasting. There are some interesting shows that I've started to listen to on the bus ride downtown in the morning. Unfortunately, the software sucks ass. I haven't been able to get anything I've downloaded to work properly for me. I have to just go to the website and download the shows manually.

I'm very tempted to write my own. If nothing else, it'll show me exactly how difficult it really is to get a podcasting app running.

My roommate and I had the basic idea for podcasting about a year ago. Well, ok, it was mostly his idea, but I was there. I even constructively added to the idea process. But it was mostly selfish; I just wanted my television show torrents to get automatically downloaded each week. Replace television shows with MP3s of radio broadcasts and you've got podcasting.

What I'd really like to know is, why haven't the existing RSS readers out there got this feature in their product. I mean, they already do RSS, all they would have to add is support for the <enclosure> tag, and they're off to the races. Not to mention that I don't really want to have to have two applications that basically do the same fucking thing.

Edit: Of course, the same day I posted this iPodder came out with version 2.0 of their software. Needless to say, it's much better than the one I had before.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

New MP3 player

I just bought an iRiver IFP 799. It's a 1 gigabyte player that thanks to a timely firmware upgrade, windows recognizes it as a removable drive. I credit this purchase to Brent who had previously bought the 256 meg version.

It's a pretty sweet player all in all, and it's one of the only ones available with my number one feature: being able to play Ogg Vorbis.



This little player has a number of features that led me to its purchase. One is definately its size. This thing is small. It's about as long as my index finger and about twice as wide. The heaviest thing about it is the double A battery that it takes.

Also very powerful is the recording abilities. You are able to record directly to MP3 from the FM radio, the microphone, or the line in. In fact, Brent used his device to record a Cool Blue Halo show at Tribeca last year and despite the fact that the output from the sound board was mono, the quality was excellent. I am looking forward to recording some things of my own.

Absolutely wonderful is the previously-mentioned firmware upgrade that allows me to completely circumvent the horrid proprietary software that comes with the device. Upon connection, the player shows up as a removable drive, and I can use explorer to drag and drop music files or anything else I want onto the internal 1 gig of storage provided. Simply because of this, the funtionality of the player has expanded dramatically. On any machine, I can hook this thing up and use it just like a USB key. I really don't understand why any company would bother developing a custom software solution when they can just implement a removable drive and allow explorer to do what explorer does best.

I believe I also mentioned how it takes a double A battery. I am all for my cell phone taking a custom lithium rechargable battery, but it's also nice to be able to swap it out when it runs dry, to be able to buy a replacement battery at any drug store for a dollar and to not have to carry a charger around with you all the time.

The FM tuner is great. With my Palm Zire 72, this was one thing I really missed when using it as an audio player. The automatic scanning definately needs some work though. It found and filled its 20 preset slots before it got to 90 MHz.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with it. I've only had the thing for a few hours now, but I have a feeling that I'll still be happy with it for quite a while.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Computer for my living room

I need a computer for my living room. The one I had in my entertainment unit went tits-up the other day. It couldn't even get past the boot screen (after the POST)...sometimes it would bluescreen too! To be honest, I wasn't totally happy with it anyway; the fan noise was extreme.

So, now I'm looking for a combination of a machine of modest performance and a quiet case that doesn't end up costing me a fortune. The old chip was an Athlon 1800+, but as long as it'll play XVid videos and DVDs it's fine with me. I can reuse most of the other hardware, such as the DVD-ROM, RAM, and video card, so all I really need is the board and chip, and case.

Anybody have any suggestions for components that would fit the bill?

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Canada's not so liberal when it comes to the Internet

I'm not sure how reliable this is, but it seems that the Canadian government has plans for their own version of Carnivore, the "Lawful Access" initiative. It's amazing to me how a country who can legalize filesharing can come up with this sort of ass-backwards concept of allowing wiretaps (digital or not) without a warrant.

Monday, March 7, 2005

Deadwood Season 2!

One of my favourite shows from last year is back: Deadwood started its second season last night. I was surprised to like it because it was a western, but the sheer realism of the sets and the passion and quality of the actors draw you in.

I'd recommend it to anybody who hasn't had the seen it yet; those who have don't need me to.

Sunday, March 6, 2005

The elusive internet café

I am sitting in what used to be commonly called an “Internet Café”, but what are now commonly referred to as “Cafés”; more specifically, Uncommon Grounds on Argyle Street (interestingly enough, that URL didn't show up until the second page of search results for "uncommon grounds halifax" on google). However, I am unfortunately relegated to composing this blog entry in Word, rather than the webpage itself because I can’t connect to any access points whatsoever. Very disappointing.

I have enjoyed a very nice coffee and a ham and gouda sandwich, but I feel rather misled, not only by the lack of Internet in this internet café, but also by the lack of power outlets. In fact, this place is so lacking in power outlets, that it can only have been by design. There’s only one other person in here with a laptop, and we’re forced to sit next to each other because the only outlet in the place is here.

Ok, let’s think about this: If you’re going to bill yourself as an Internet Café, then perhaps the principle things you should have, besides coffee, would be uh…Internet, and power. Come on people.

[Edit: Ok, I found out later that the internet thing was because I had to actually register with them. Fair enough. I should have found that out, but the lack of power outlets is still reprehensible.]

[Edit2: Found out later still that if they did indeed have wireless internet at this location, then I would have to register with them. They don’t currently, but it’s in the works, I’m promised.]

Now, if I were to review the place as a pure café rather than an Internet café, then they would surely fare much better. They have great coffee and damn good food at prices that are considerably lower than Starbucks. It’s all good on that front.

There are a number of clever idiosyncrasies that make this place pretty cool: The Andy Warhol-style pop-culture murals on the walls, the fact that everything is stainless steel, and the way they serve the coffee for “eat-in” customers in clear glass glasses. Second, but certainly not in my mind, are the tip jars; yes, they have more than one. Every day there is a trivia question posed to the customer with three possible answers, and a tip jar for each one. It’s like you’re supposed to “vote” for your answer by tipping. Personally, I think they seed one of the incorrect answers so obsessive-compulsive people like me will feel an unconscious desire to fill up the correct answer bowl with money. Damn them! A daddy-long-legs isn’t even a spider!

On the down side, this particular location doesn’t seem to have nearly the comfy seating area that the other two Uncommon Grounds locations do. There are only two plush leather seats in the whole place, and nary a couch to be seen. It’s much smaller than the others, but man, this hard backed bench is doing nothing for me.

In conclusion, if you’re just looking for coffee and a bite, then any U.G. will do, but don’t bother hanging out in the Argyle Street one…It’s like they designed it to make you want to leave.

Saturday, March 5, 2005

There's a new Pick in town.

My friend (and boss) Jeff Pick just had his second kid. Another boy...I'll let him explain the sitution:
On Thursday March 10th @ 11:43AM, Crystal and I (well, mostly her as I simply held the camera) unleashed another child containing my (apparently very cute) genes into this world! ;)

Ethan James Pick was born 8lbs 4oz, and seems to be doing just fine! Mom and dad are tired, but still hanging strong in there. Should be home from the hospital (finally) sometime on Sunday … if everything continues to go as well as they have been!

Dangerous...Hopefully this one's more like his mom :P

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Crash course in BBCode

I'm sure more than a few of you have wondered, "WTF is up with all this BBCode shiznit? OMGWTFLOLBBQ!!!!!11!!1!1one". Well, I'm here to explain as best I can.

In short, BBCode is a pseudo-mark-up language very similar to HTML that you can use to make text bold, post working links, format your text, etc.

Read on for more.

Q: If BBCode is like HTML, why not just use HTML?
A: That's a valid question. And it comes with just as valid an answer: Since the rest of this website is also shown with HTML, Joe User, who thinks he knows what he's doing, enters a comment or a blog post, or whatever, with some HTML in it. But Joe didn't close one of his tags. That could potentially screw up the rendering of the rest of the page and nobody wants that.

Not allowing actual HTML in user-contributed content also prevents the malicious use of the <script> tag in cross-site scripting attacks.

Q: Ok, I get it. How do I use it?
A: BBCode is very similar to HTML, but instead of surrounding your tags with < and >, you're going to use [ and ] (square brackets). Let's go through the tags together so you can see what they all do. For display purposes, I'm going to use <> instead of [], because [] would actually get interpreted as BBCode.

Align
<align=left>This text is aligned left</align>
This text is aligned left

<align=center>This text is aligned center</align>
This text is aligned center

<align=right>This text is aligned right</align>
This text is aligned right


B
The word <b>bold</b> will appear bold.
The word bold will appear bold.

BG
<bg=red>This line's background will be red</bg>
This line's background will be red
<bg=#ccddee>This line's background will be some other colour.</bg>
This line's background will be some other colour.

Code
The code tag will cause whitespace not to be ignored, so you can format things with spaces.
for( i=0; i<5; i++ )
{
// This is code.
// Whitespace is not ignored.
DoYourThing();
DoWhatchaWannaDo();
}


Color
<color=red>This text will be red.</color>
This text will be red.

Email and MailTo
<email=email@example.com>Link Text</email>
Link Text

i
<i>This text will be in italics.</i>
This text will be in italics.

Image and img
<image=http://spine.cx/images/topics/spine-icon.jpg>


Link and URL
<link=http://weatheroffice.ec.gc.ca/>Link Text</link>
Link Text

Quote
<quote>This text will be quoted</quote>
This text will be quoted


S
<s>Strikethrough</s>
Strikethrough

Size
<size=9>Size = 9</size>
Size = 9
<size=10>Size = 10</size>
Size = 10
<size=11>Size = 11</size>
Size = 11

U
<u>underline</u>
underline

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Two more visits to the doctor

After my throat swab for strep came back negative, my doctor called me back in for a blood test. Two days and another appointment later, it turns out I have mononucleosis.

Lucky for me, the only symptom I really seem to be experiencing is the swelling of tonsils and lymph nodes. Unlucky for me, that one symptom is making up in spades for the lack of the other ones.

Any of you guys ever get mono? Did it lay you on your ass?

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