Charles Pillsbury III

Geek. Dad. Writer?

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Archive for March, 2008

Category: Don’t I friggin know it.

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The average Atlanta resident with a job drives 66 miles every day. In fact, people here drive so much that if you added up every commute and every trip to a store or soccer practice on just one day, you’d get a number that’s larger than the distance between the Earth and the sun.

[From Life in the 'Burbs: Heavy Costs for Families, Climate : NPR]

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March 31st, 2008 at 9:11 pm

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Redbox rentals on the cheap…er

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They have these things out in front of our local wal-mart, and though the $1 a day thing is a pretty good deal, free is even better.

All you need to do is visit these sites and print out the latest list of codes before your trip to the local RedBox. I like insideredbox the best, it gives a percentage rating for the codes, much like retailmenot.com. Anyway, choose your movie, punch in a code (hit the Add Promo Code button), swipe your card and take home your free rental. As long as you return it before 9pm the following day, you never pay for that movie. I do believe they put a $1 hold on your card for each rental, but that is of course returned to you very quickly.

[From NEVER pay for a RedBox DVD rental again | Wise Bread]

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March 31st, 2008 at 7:08 pm

Posted in Misc

Quality time?

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While the concept of quality time instead of being physically present while psychically phoning it in isn’t without merit, this little quote just nails a key point that is often forgotten: that quantity counts for a heck of a lot too.

I forget where this comes from, but the standard line of spending “quality time” with our loved ones is bunk. Instead, spend quality time at work … and quantity time with your family.

[From An Idea (and Question) Dump From The Big-arse Text File | Matthew Cornell - Personal Productivity Workflow Consultant]

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March 31st, 2008 at 7:01 pm

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How to do free/spec work

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I love this concept on doing spec work. I know a lot of people just getting started are tempted to work for free, or on spec, and this idea of doing this for a local charity instead.

All of you students who are saying it’s great experience to post in the SitePoint contests, I applaud your initiative. It’s great that you’re getting out there. However, if you’re willing to work for such little money, one suggestion is that you contact a small non-profit near you (and if you believe in their mission, so much the better) and inquire if there’s any work that they need done for very low pay. Many smaller organizations don’t have very much money, but could really use help with their web site, logo, publications, etc. They’d get better quality design than what they’re used to (typically a volunteer clip-arting away in Publisher or Microsoft Word) and you’d get some money, experience, and pieces for your portfolio.

[From Spec work can damage your business | David Airey :: Graphic and Logo Designer]

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March 30th, 2008 at 10:35 am

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Sam on IHOP

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“And the pancakes are so so good, and the eggs are so so good that they blow my mind out.”

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March 29th, 2008 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Blog Entry, Sam Stories

This is the same girl who bit her brother’s nose last weekend.

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Grace

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March 29th, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Random Links for the day

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I’m actually tempted by these goofy things (largely because I feel bad about the handful of bonsai we’ve killed at our house)

The lenses block out the green reflected by chlorophyll in the healthy areas of your lawn and garden, causing those areas to show as black or gray. Any unhealthy spots, deficient in chlorophyll, will show up as pink, red or coral colors.

[From Popgadget Personal Technology for Women: High Tech Plant Examining Glasses]

Don’t know that Geeks need batteries as much as parents do… nice little article on rechargeable batteries.

I’ve reprinted the technical details from each AA battery below:

1998 NiMH GP Rechargeable 1.2v, 1300 mAh
2008 NiMH Energizer Rechargeable 1.2v, 2500 mAh

Is it really true that AA battery capacity has almost doubled in the last ten years? That’s pretty amazing. But as I found out, it’s not the entire story.

For one thing, there’s the issue of discharge rate. It turns out that massive 2500mAh capacity of the Energizer rechargeable battery doesn’t mean much when the battery drains itself within a month.

[From Coding Horror: Adventures in Rechargeable Batteries]

I just loved this commentary on the nuclear detonators that were accidentally shipped to Taiwan. For some reason all I could think about was an expectation that there would be a story that somebody had accidentally shipped the Ark of the Covenant to Namibia next (that’s your Indiana Jones reference for the week).

Did someone at the airbase from which they were shipped, look at a packing list that said “helicopter battery” and accidentally pack 4 nuclear bomb triggers? I imagine they have a label on the box that reads “WARNING! NUCLEAR BOMB TRIGGER INSIDE. DO NOT USE HOOKS” or something like that. Still I guess mistakes happen.

But here’s what I really don’t understand. The triggers were for Mark -12 nuclear weapons. The Mark 12, nicknamed “Brock” by those who have pet names for atomic bombs, hasn’t been part of the nuclear arsenal since 1962. These things have been outdated for 46 years. I think (this is no joke) that a Mark-12 trigger uses vacuum tubes.

[From Notes from the Technology Underground: Too Much Clutter in America's Nuclear Attic?]

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March 28th, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Posted in Blog Entry, Misc

piracy, protection, and photoshop

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This little bit on gaming piracy opens up (or re-opens as I think Mudge and I have discussed this in the recent past) a whole can of “do the pirates really matter” worms. (the obvious answer is that pirates matter just because they’re so cool and say Argggh, but I digress).

If you want to talk about piracy, talk about desktop enhancements. The piracy on that is huge. But the question isn’t about piracy. It’s about sales.

So here is the deal: When you develop for a market, you don’t go by the user base. You go by the potential customer base. That’s what most software companies do. They base what they want to create on the size of the market they’re developing for. But not PC game developers.

PC game developers seem to focus more on the “cool” factor. What game can they make that will get them glory with the game magazines and gaming websites and hard core gamers? These days, it seems like game developers want to be like rock stars more than businessmen. I’ve never considered myself a real game developer. I’m a gamer who happens to know how to code and also happens to be reasonably good at business.

So when I make a game, I focus on making games that I think will be the most profitable. As a gamer, I like most games. I love Bioshock. I think the Orange Box is one of the best gaming deals ever. I love Company of Heroes and Oblivion was captivating. My two favorite games of all time are Civilization (I, II, III, and IV) and Total Annihilation. And I won’t even get into the hours lost in WoW. Heck, I even like The Sims.

So when it comes time to make a game, I don’t have a hard time thinking of a game I’d like to play. The hard part is coming up with a game that we can actually make that will be profitable. And that means looking at the market as a business not about trying to be “cool”.

[From Opinionated techie » Piracy & PC Gaming]

The conversation with The Mudge was in regard to the free on-line photoshop. His theory was, I believe, that it’s a way of limiting piracy and controlling the user base more. My theory is that it’s more an acknowledgment of the way things actually work now (most of those people pirating photoshop would never buy the product because they don’t feel it’s reasonable to pay $700 for a tool to crop and unsharp mask). I think the argument could be made that they’re taking a percentage of those people who would’ve been pirates, and turning them into, if not paying at least legal, customers who may in the future deem it worthy of spending their cash on the more advanced version of the product.

There was also some discussion (and a rat-hole of broadband penetration statistics I ran down) on how this may be widening “the gap.” I think the gap between rich/poor isn’t as clearly divided in the on-line realm, and I’m not sure this doesn’t help trim the gap vs widening it. I think Mudge’s basis was that this is something you need broadband to take advantage of (hence the aforementioned rat-hole). I think that A) broadband isn’t nearly as much an upper-middle-class and above phenomenon as it would on the surface seem and B) it would act more as a “gap shrinker” by allowing people who would’ve otherwise had zero (or only piratical) access to the software to learn at least the basics.

The concept I liked to ponder most was the technology behind it. I shoot 10MB Raw images in my camera and uploading those via DSL would still be painful, but if they had a little application that started with an upload of a smaller jpg it could help. Once the item is uploaded though the bandwidth to bring that much picture data up and down would be tremendous. My solution would be to make a much smaller jpg version of the file for editing, and then store the changes as a stack of commands to be run on the full-res item on the server. Then when the jpg one has been tweaked to satisfaction the user clicks a “submit” and the modifications happen at the end, on the server (using the server computing power), and they get back a new high-res .jpg to download. I assume this is how they do it, but I’m not sure.

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March 28th, 2008 at 7:09 pm

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Problems I have with a 9-5 (or 7-4 as the case may be)

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I broke out of my normal RSS mode this morning and let myself dip into my weekly feeds instead of just my daily ones** (this was because I’m still a bit sick and didn’t feel up to getting up an starting the day yet, but had already finished reviewing my daily feeds). I’m glad I did because I came across this great little piece by Chad Perrin on geek productivity.

Crazy-late hours of intensive hacking lend themselves naturally to entering, and sustaining, a deep state of “hack mode”:

* Other (saner) people aren’t around to interrupt. They’re all asleep. This provides additional safety when juggling eggs.
* The requirement of keeping from disturbing others inhibits the tendency to engage in distracting entertainments (like TV). This almost forces one to focus entirely on one’s work. Only something like reddit stands in the way.
* Subjectively speaking, it seems that the wee hours of the morning lend themselves to an almost surreal, abnormal perspective. Inspiration can be found in odd places under that sort of influence — which leads to new ideas coming to mind and being explored that, by the light of day, may have been dismissed immediately as “crazy talk”.

[From Chad Perrin: SOB » insomnia and productivity]

There is inherently a difficulty in concentration at the office when you know you might be interrupted at any moment. It just sucks up a certain amount of psychic energy. One of my co-workers complains about this on a semi-regular basis. To some degree it’s the nature of the best, but it’s also the nature of us beasts (programmers/Geeks/etc) to need some way of fire-walling ourselves so we can get into the zone. It’s the late night hours I miss for this, because even if it was writing instead of programming, the late night solitude let me get into that mode. I’ve tried to do it in the early morning hours but haven’t had as much luck yet.

This is one of those articles it’s good for loved ones to read so they have a little better understanding of how we (or at least our minds) work.

** I’ve arranged my RSS feeds into Daily, Weekly, and Monthly folders, as well as a News one that is also daily but I read it differently. I’ve seen this mentioned elsewhere as a high-priority feed vs low-priority feed methodology, where you tackle the things you know you want to read first. I did mine as daily weekly because I realize I have a problem once I get started that I may just descend into a rathole of RSS for a couple hours every morning/evening if I didn’t find a way to limit that.

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March 27th, 2008 at 6:08 pm

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Photography business idea

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Those who have known me a while know that I was planning on being a photographer at some point in my life (my senior pictures in high-school had my Canon EOS A2E in my hand). So I keep up with a few photography related sites ( I’m loving the new This Week in Photography from some of the guys from Macbreak Weekly), and I came across this idea for adding value to a photography business.

The best strategy though is always to give away something that costs you little, is valuable to the client, and brings you benefits too.

One of the best options might be to give a wedding client a year’s free membership on Flickr and offer to place the images you’ve shot on the site.

[From Finding Freebies]

I recently upgraded our flickr account to a pro one for the year to get the benefits of unlimited photo sets, and see how well the service worked for me (incidentally I got the 10 sample Moo cards yesterday and they ROCK). I love the idea here and wish more photographers would offer something like this. I’d be very interested in an independent portrait photographer who charged me X for the pictures and included that they’d go up on flickr into an account for me to order the prints myself. I’d also like the option as a client of having them “extend” my membership for an extra year, or give me a discount if I already have the membership. And of course I always entertain the possibility of doing some freelance photography and using this idea myself.

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March 27th, 2008 at 6:07 pm

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