Charles Pillsbury III

Geek. Dad. Writer?

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Archive for February, 2008

Gadget Envy

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I’m more a fan of gadgets in theory, than I am in a real practical “I’m going to buy that” sense. I use an old gumstick 512mb iPod shuffle I got for my wife a couple Christmas’s back (it was a refurb and I inherited it when I got her a refurbed Nano), I use the work supplied blackberry as my only cell phone, and I’m typing this on my 12″ iBook G4/800 which was the latest model in late 2003, and already a model old when I bought it as a display model from Micro-Center. Which is all to preface that while I keep up with technological trends, I don’t actually purchase all that many gadgets/computers/etc.

We recently (well 6-12 months ago) replaced my wife’s aging home-brewed Windows 2K PC (running an old AMD Duron 900 Mhz chip) with a newer generic Micro-Center brand (PowerSpec) desktop for around $300. However, what she really wants is a new laptop. She would use this largely for writing lesson plans (she’s a home-schooling mom and teaches one day a week at a fine arts school for home-schoolers), and the requisite e-mail and surfing and such. The most likely solution for her laptop question is going to be a basic Macbook. I’m trying to move away from all Windows based machines, and frankly don’t think I have the energy to get her proficient enough at Linux.

That really only addresses her needs, and not my needs (or wants). So I thought I’d run down a list of a few of the gadgets on my “dreaming” list.

MacBook vs MacBook Air vs Macbook Pro vs EeePC:

Yes, the MacBook Air came out and I was sucked into the reality distortion field and was SURE this was the machine for me. But upon further contemplation it’s really not cost-effective enough for me to chose it over a MacBook. If I’m going to spend the extra money I should probably spend it on a Macbook Pro as I do a fair bit of work on my laptop (blogging, web design, web programming, website administration, writing, photo editing, home movie editing, etc). That said I’ve also considered replacing my beloved iBook with an EeePC from Asus. I work in a Unix world and would be quite comfortable using the EeePC for my surfing, e-mail, and (depending on how I feel about the keyboard once I get to try one out) writing. Of course this would then require me to have some sort of functional desktop at home, but that would then address my desire to have an iMac for storing all the family photos and videos (which I’ll address later).

On the one hand I could buy a Macbook for $1000 or so and have an upgrade to my current system and probably run for another 3-4 years before I’d need new hardware. On the other hand I could spend the $1800 on a Macbook Pro or Air and either be more portable (Air) or have more technological room (Pro). On the other hand (did I mention I’m a Hindu god of some sort?) I could spend the $1500 on an iMac and then another $300 on an EeePC and address both right now. I’m not decided on this front yet, but I’ll leave you with a little comparison between the Air and the EeePC.

The Far Side of Tech » Apple Air versus Asus Eee: A Comparison:

iMac 24″

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I’ve not had a personal desktop computer for a while now, and occasionally I miss it. I like the storage capacity, the power, and the big honking keyboard. The 24″ iMac would be a good “family computer” and I’m tempted to get one to replace the cheap 19″ CRT TV in my master bedroom for my wife to use as her machine and TV viewing. I would love to have something this size for doing my web work, as well as for all the home movie video editing and such.

iPod Touch vs Nano

I’ll rule out the iPod Classic from my list, not because I don’t want one, but because it’s probably the least practical for me at this time. The iPod Nano has the video features I like, and is small and light and relatively cheap (BIG PLUS). The Touch (I don’t want an iPhone) has all that nice screen real-estate, plus wi-fi (and the browsing and e-mail functions that go with that), and a much stiffer price.

I’ve debated (in my head, with myself, you do that too right?) about what combo of computing would be the most practical way to spend our money (assuming we had any of course). Options include:

  1. We purchase her a MacBook and me an iPod Touch to do my e-mail and surfing stuff and then I’m borrowing her machine (after running the iBook into the ground) to do my web work (and day job remote support work as needed). Cost: $1500ish
  2. The “Dream” set-up would be a 24″ iMac for the house/home office, a 15″ MacBook Pro for me, and a Macbook for Alicia, plus one for the kids. Throw in a new pink Nano for Alicia, an iPod Touch for me, and pass along Alicia’s old Nano to Jake and we’d be in uber-gadget heaven. $6300ish?
  3. I think the base-line/most likely option would be to purchase two MacBooks, one for Alicia, and one for me, and be done with it. We’d both have pretty close to what we needed out of our computers, and we’d only be out of pocket a couple grand (he says like a couple grand isn’t as hard to come by as pants that he fits into). Cost: $2200ish
  4. Another option is a Macbook for her, an iMac for the house, and an EeePC for me. This gives me a robust machine to work on at home, and a nice Linux machine to work on while away from the desk. I’d miss my favorite Mac Apps, but I’d be getting back to my *nix roots (my first IT job involved writing shell scripts for amazon.com while I worked there). $3000ish

Some other technology items I’ve pondered lately….

AppleTV

I like the AppleTV in concept, but realistically I don’t watch enough TV for it to be a cost effective purchase… doesn’t keep me from wanting one though. My money would be better spent picking up a PVR/Tivo type thing at this point.

Eye-Fi

I really like the look of this, and the price is incredibly reasonable. The Eye-Fi is basically a camera memory card combined with a Wi-Fi adaptor that allows you to wirelessly upload your pictures to photo-sharing services (like Flickr) without needing to interface with your computer every time you do so, and/or you can use it to transfer the pictures to your computer.


Snowflake (mic from Snowball people)

I’ve done a bit of podcasting in the past, plan on doing more in the future, and this looks to be a reasonably priced little USB microphone that would give me a better quality recording than my current kludgy setup of an iMic adaptor and some cheap mic/headset thing.

Belkin Podcast Studio

Again, this is one of those items I’d be hard pressed to justify right now, but the idea is so cool. Of course it would also give me an excuse to upgrade to something more than my old iPod shuffle. This little device gives you basic editing function, mic inputs, etc and then sends all that audio straight into an iPod for storage. It’s a mini-soundboard that uses an iPod for storage is how I think of it.

Time Capsule

Another reality distortion purchase desire is the Time Capsule WiFi Access point/storage thing. This would really only be a temptation if I do end up getting a Macbook for Alicia, and a new machine for me, and maybe an iMac. The network storage aspect is something I’ve wanted to get to at some point (better backups, less chance of losing our 10Gig of family pictures a year). There’s also a device called a “Drobo” (I think that’s the name) that I’ve considered as well, but it’s also a bit pricier.

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February 12th, 2008 at 9:37 pm

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Pics of the kids

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February 11th, 2008 at 9:13 am

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Paradox of Choice and such…

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I’ve heard about the The Paradox of Choice, listened to interviews with the author, and read tertiary theories based on it (as Tim Ferriss talks about below), but not actually read the book (I have the feeling I’ve made that excuse about this concept before, and it didn’t stop me from commenting then either).

Tim Ferriss, of the 4-hour workweek fame, is a guy with interesting ideas, a bit too much Tony Robbins in his presentation, and a lot worth listening to. today I read a blog post on how to increase output without being overwhelmed, which largely dealt with the paradox of choice idea (too many options takes all the fun out of life in spite of what you might expect to the contrary… or something like that). I particularly liked this little gem.

Don’t confuse what should be results-driven with routine (e.g. exercise) with something enjoyment-driven that benefits from variation (e.g. recreation).

[From The Choice-Minimal Lifestyle: 6 Formulas for More Output and Less Overwhelm | The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss]

I know we often lament the regularity of the meals we plan for our family. How often do we eat spaghetti or veggie fajitas, or any of the other dozen or so main menu items we rotate. But it’s interesting to think about those meals as the “results-driven routine” (keeping the kids full and healthy) and not as something that’s particularly enjoyment-driven. If we take the complexity of planning the meal out of the equation we can then enjoy the meal itself, not for the food (which isn’t exactly BAD, just common) but for the time spent with the family together.

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February 10th, 2008 at 1:21 am

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Poor Gracie

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The other night after bath time I handed her off to Alicia who noticed that her front tooth had what looked like a cavity, and then she noticed some on the back teeth. To make a long story short it looks like she’s going to need crowns on the two front teeth, and one on the back, and a filling on the other side of the back. The horror part of it is that not ONLY does she have to have this work done, but because she’s so light it looks like they won’t knock her out for it, but will have to strap her down and just give her some nitrous oxide. Both Alicia and I are mortified at the thought of them tying her down and doing all that work on her, but the alternative of root canals later and big problems with her teeth down the line it may be a necessary evil. We’re still looking for second and third opinions trying to find out if there is a way they’ll knock her out for it (she was knocked out for her ear tubes, one would think they could knock her out for this as well).

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February 9th, 2008 at 11:32 am

My Random links for the weekend

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I read quite a few RSS feeds and have a tendency to IM links to family and friends when I do. Today I’m going to just blog them and hope people check the blog :D (Check above or below this post for some updates on poor Gracie’s teeth… depending on which I post first).

One of my favorite internet personalities Merlin Mann has come up with what is now one of my favorite quotes:

“Coffee is sufficiently advanced technology” – Merlin Mann

Which is a spin off of the old Arthur Clarke line:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C Clarke

We all know we’ve always wanted a hidden shelf unit. I’m thinking of building one of these into Jake’s room… or maybe mine.

[From Per Vivere [To Live]: Holly Shelf Unit, Batman!]

My wife loves a bed neatly made to slip into at night. I however like it more “loose” for my big feet to have room in. Well somebody at Real Simple magazine has a little explanation of how to “fix” that for both of us.

I know all of my family and friends wish they had been in possession of this “Nerd Handbook” many years ago. It’s also a bit of insight into the male mind, and maybe into Sam’s Asperger’s tendencies.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to work an all-nighter, and now if I do it will probably be less “planned” and more “oh crap production is down and I have to get it fixed”, but this advice on how to be productive for 24 hours is pretty good.

Disclaimer, I don’t agree with everything on The Good Human, but he’s got enough good information and good intentions that I don’t have to agree with him to appreciate what he has to say. We’re looking to move at some point in the next couple years and I’d love to build “Green” and he’s got some good resources here.

I know they’re now successful and hence must be evil… but Google makes some cool stuff. I’m thinking of using the new Google Docs Team Edition with my side work (writing and websites and such)… since the day job doesn’t like the google docs

Found this amusing little video by George Hrab… who I’ve heard good things about but only listened to a few times. The song is good enough, but the video is great.


Star Wars nerd moment… I like this shirt idea. I’m not sure I like it enough to buy it… but it’s still kinda funny.

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February 9th, 2008 at 10:14 am

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Writer’s Strike

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As a wannabe writer I’m torn about the writer’s strike. I don’t watch all that much television so my viewing isn’t directly effected, but I do want it to end. The question is, do I want it to end because the writer’s will be better compensated in the future? or do I want it to end because then maybe my family might escape the clutches of “Reality TV”? I’ve heard more than enough sounds of American Idol wafting from the next room. Tonight the family (OK, wife and big kid) discovered they had missed the build-up to the new season of Survivor and are now camped in the other room watching a bunch of random people scheming against each other on an island. I can’t wait till baseball season starts.

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February 7th, 2008 at 8:22 pm

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