Webcam

Alright. I’ve never really played with one of these things before. I’ve been familiar with Skype, but have never used it. I’ve never had a system that had a webcam until now. So, I played with it some the other day.

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It seems to take pictures alright. But, it has a set of ‘effects’ that appear as goofy frames or other random objects when you apply them. Then, you’ve got some odd object in your pic or video.

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Yeah. Like that. How are we supposed to deal with these things?

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Well, there’s an idea. Maybe there are other ways though.

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Maybe there are nicer ways.

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We may be weird, but we’re in love.

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The ‘effects’ even work on video.

It always helps if you know how to operate the equipment.

Some of them are animated. Some are animated backwards no less!

None of these are exactly tasteful. How does one appropriately use a border of fall leaves anyway?

I have mused for some time now about publishing a video blog entry from time to time…

Custom Made Purse

This post is mostly cross-posted from The Holster Site. I say ‘mostly’ because it’s not verbatim. Okay. The introduction is different, but it’s pretty much the same post from there on. If you click on any of the pics in this post, it will take you to the entry on The Holster Site. If you’ve made a habit of reading my blog and didn’t wind up here on accident, looking for robot porn or something, you probably recall this post in which I experimented with new product types outside the scope of a standard holster. If I didn’t drive you away since then, you probably read this post in which I talk about tools and materials, and talk about a handbag that I was working on. Well, now I’ve got something to show for it.

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The details are everything. Even the dust bag is stitched from Indian silk, and matches the lining.

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Please note the seams in the silk dust bag.

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Yes. I’m that serious about making a quality product. But, you want to see the bag itself, not the dust bag!

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The black top-grain leather is soft and luxurious. The sanded and polished stingray hide (also called shagreen), adds another dimension of beauty to this handmade bag.

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The small pouch beside the bag is filled with aromatic cedar, to freshen the leather and silk when storing the bag.

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Solid metal feet won’t smash or fall off like the cheap ones that are typically found on most bags.

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The sassy, silk lining matches the dust bag and the cedar pouch. There are rugged leather pockets around the perimeter of the bag.

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This bag includes a matching key ring and a place to hang it inside the purse. In the above picture, you can also see the outline of the magnetic closure on the front of the bag.

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The logo fob is hand beaded in a peyote stitch, in coordinating colors.

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The strap adjusts between twenty-four inches for a high shoulder carry, or out to fifty-six inches for a relaxed cross-body carry. These numbers were customer specified.

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Of all the details I’ve shown you, I save the most important one for last.

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I designed the pistol pocket to accommodate a variety of compact handguns. It will easily carry my customer’s Bersa, a subcompact Glock, a snubby revolver, and many others. In this picture, my wife’s Smith & Wesson M&P9c is secured in the pocket. If you or someone you love would like me to make a custom bag for them, but they don’t carry a gun, I’m more than willing to substitute another non-gun pocket.

This bag is completely stitched in a heavy, bonded nylon thread. All the seams are finished and most are reinforced, even where you can’t see them. I did this so it would be beautiful and durable. There is no plastic or cardboard in this bag. There are no man-made materials at all. My entire product line is based on the concept of beauty and durability. I fully expect my customer’s heirs to treasure this bag one day. One like this is fully capable of lasting that long.

Husbands and boyfriends, It’s a great time to place Christmas orders!

Geeking Out Part 2

In my last post, I wrote about my struggles against Windows Vista and provided an example in a clip from Akira. So, I’d like to start this post with this little gem:

That’s some funny stuff right there! Anyway, fighting with the multi-boot on the Toshiba laptop got me to thinking. There was smoke. I had to take a break before I overheated the old brain. But, I thought wouldn’t it be cool if you could set up a simultaneous multi-boot system? Like there could be several operating systems that you could boot into at the same time and toggle between them if you wanted to. With the hardware that’s out there now, there’s plenty of power to be had for such systems. And, as many boot managers as I’ve seen or heard of, and as many multi-boot anecdotes you can find on the interwebtron with a quick Google search, I’ve never heard of anybody doing this.

But, it wouldn’t be that hard. Initially I thought that maybe somebody could write up what would essentially be a very lean and rudimentary OS that would manage a set of hardware emulators with BIOSes if necessary. I was musing about who I might know that would be up to scripting something like that when it dawned on me. All the software components are already out there and really only need to be put together.

If one was so inclined, one could easily install Damn Small Linux on a machine and strip it down to bare essentials. I’d want to leave no unnecessary applications on it at all. I’d probably leave the Fluxbox window manager and make sure it had enough drivers to run the hardware and peripherals. Then, install VirtualBox, QEMU, and/or PearPC. DSL runs so lean that I bet you could get nearly full speed out of a virtually hosted operating system through a good set up on one or more of the above emulators. Then, I wonder how well the virtual machines would get along with each other and the rest of the network. The fact of the matter is that I’ve got a spare PC with decent resources that needs a hard drive – which are getting cheaper and cheaper to attain. I’ve also got a spare copy of XP, one of OSX 10.3, and Linux is free all over the place.

I’m kind of thinking that I have to give this a try. I don’t know how useful it will be, but for the sheer novelty of it if nothing else. I’m not going to do it right now, as I’ve got other things to focus my time and energy on at the moment. But still, could be cool.

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Recently, I had a much needed, God-sent laptop fall into my… …well… …lap. The only problem with it is that the OS was fraught with disaster. The little Toshiba Satellite was born with the wrong OS in the first place, a well-known bug in Windows called ‘Vista’. The previous owner had compounded this problem with every conceivable Disney shortcut and Yahoo spam app. Suffice it to say the machine was not working all that well.

It had been a few years since I last did anything in the way of software wrenching. Several years ago, I was known to take the random old pile of refuse desktop and crank it into something usable. I played with Linux a lot, and actually had quite a bit of fun expanding my horizons. That ended because I wound up getting a slightly fresher computer, installed XP on it, and called it a day. I figured I’d eventually wipe it and reinstall rather than meticulously attempt to keep my XP installation pristine. Much to my surprise, I haven’t had any problems with the XP install since then.

Fast forward to now. I had to do something about this notebook. I dusted off my hacker wannabe hat, rolled up my sleeves and dived in. It’s an AMD-based processor, so OSX is out of the question. I just don’t have the cash to shell out for the Windows 7 upgrade right now, but I knew that I didn’t want to rely on Vista alone. I knew that it could be quite the fight to get all the various assundry drivers gathered up to make the machine work well under XP. I’ve used (and enjoyed) Linux in the past, but I also know that getting everything configured to my hardware/software demands can be a pain. So, I figured I’d split the difference and install all three. Well, that didn’t work out so well. I fought long and hard with the Microsoft bootloader. I could get two OS’s playing nicely at the exclusion of the third. I’d already done enough configuring in my installation of XP that I had confirmed my driver fears. So, I thought screw it. I’ll just go with a Vista/Debian dual-boot system.

I had no idea what a hideous monster Vista really is. The recovery disks were on three DVDs. THREE. DVDs. It wouldn’t let me install on any less than a 30 gig partition. When I went to install updates, I got an error message that I shall paraphrase as:

Ohai. U no can haz anymore updateses. LOL! Ur hard drives is FULLLLLLL!!!!!!!1!!! Srsly. Kthxby.

So, I cranked around on my partitioning again, increased the partition to a full 64.4 gigabytes (59.9 as far as Windows knows), reinstalled Debian (had to delete the Linux partition for Vista’s fat butt), and continued with updates. I just got done installing SP2. At this point, the install is sitting close to 40 gigs. In all fairness, that does include Spybot S&D and Firefox. But, I’m not exactly running CAD here.

Seriously, how did the folks at Microsoft think this bloated piece of crap was fit for the market? My installation of it went from a grossly oversized 15 gig install to Tetsuo from Akira in about three sessions of updates in a twenty-four hour period.

Yeah. It was pretty much like that. So, as an illustrious blogger with two readers, surely one or the other of you has a little experience with Seven. Is it big and bloated too, or did they manage to trim it down from Vista? Thanks!

Update: I finally got the wireless working in Vista. What a pile o’ crap OS!

Epic Phone Shopping

Well, after milking my aging BlackBerry 8830 World Edition for over three years, it started to get buggier than usual, and I decided to replace it. Let me explain a little. My BlackBerry never worked quite right. Jennifer and I bought identical BlackBerries just before the release of the original iPhone. We were looking for stability and usability that we conjectured would be lacking in the original iPhone upon its release (I still feel like we had a mixed win on that bet). From the time that I took it home, my BlackBerry exhibited odd behavior. It became a matter of habit for me to check the network connection when I hadn’t received an email in a while, to see if I needed to do a battery pull and a cold boot. The phone would literally decide it had no connection at random and could not be consoled beyond a very complete power down and reboot.

When I complained to Sprint, they told me that it was a hardware/software problem versus a service problem, and that I should take it up with BlackBerry customer support. They kindly provided the phone number to the BlackBerry hotline, and I attempted to call. Repeatedly. There is no BlackBerry customer support. It’s simply a phone line attached to a recording that tells you how important you are to them. I stayed on hold for hours. I drained my battery on hold. Eventually, I gave up on the concept of BlackBerry customer support and filed it away with Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, and perfect employment. It is fictional and no more than a happy lie. I made due with the knowledge that I was going to have to do a battery pull five to ten times a week. Jennifer had a phone identical to my BlackBerry, but hers performed more or less flawlessly.

Jennifer and I went to an amusement park where we rode water rides. These weren’t the slides where you deliberately immerse yourself in bleach brine, suspend the knowledge that it has an extremely high urea content, and slide down a tube, but they were raft rides and log rides where you’re probably going to get splashed a little, but you maintain a position over the water. We didn’t think much of the phones or the danger they might be in. Both phones got wet. Jennifer‘s phone didn’t think much of the water. Mine didn’t care.

It’s not that her phone went into a smoking and sparking death or anything, it just slowly stopped working. The controls one by one stopped functioning correctly. The applications one by one started getting quirky. My phone soldiered on, as good as it had ever been, buggy and fussy as ever. So, we decided to get her a new one. We couldn’t afford to replace both phones at the same time, and I have to admit that I felt a little resentment that it was the proper-functioning phone that got fried in the drink. Why oh why couldn’t it have been the phone that never had worked right?!?!? It’s not that I resented my wife getting a cool new phone, it’s that I still got stuck with the short-bus BlackBerry. But, we got her a Palm Pre that she loves using to this day. And on the up side, her old BlackBerry functioned well enough after the fact that it’s made a fine battery charger and extra battery for my phone.

She’s kind of had my ‘next’ phone picked out for a while. For a long time, she was convinced that we would get an HTC Evo for my next mobile device. Replaceable (and expandable) battery, Micro SD slot, 4G, mobile hot-spot, multi-touch screen, and a fast processor sum up a few of the attractive features on the EVO – several of which still make me shy away from iPhone lust. Sorry, I’m just not drinking the cool-aid that says that I’ll never have to replace my battery, that I don’t need my phone to have a >1-day battery life anyway, or that the storage space that comes with the phone is plenty. That’s like a car salesman telling me that cup holders are more important than horsepower – not for anyone to decide but me. So sorry. I did have one additional complaint on the EVO. Like the iPhone, it has no physical keyboard. I read excellent reviews about its on-screen keyboard, but those things just creep me out. My fingers need to feel buttons sometimes.

Enter the Samsung Epic. Comparing the HTC Evo and the Samsung Epic side by side can cause a headache if you aren’t careful. They are nearly identical in almost every way. Some of the more minor differences that I observed are that the Evo has a newer version of Android than the Epic, nominally larger screen, and comes with half the storage space, although their capacities for expansion each top out at 32-gigs. The processor speed is the same between the two, though they are different families, and the Evo with hotspot eight devices vs five on the Epic, and similarly the primary cameras are five megapixels on the Epic to the Evo’s eight. How many megapixels do you really need to shoot from the camera in your phone, anyway? My first camera phone didn’t shoot in full VGA, but it was useful enough. If I want good pictures, I’m going to grab Jen’s Nikon anyway. The two major differences I noted between the two devices were the two that made my decision.

The Epic has a four inch wide, slide out, QWERTY keyboard. Win! The Epic also has an AMOLED screen. Let me tell you, I never thought I would be able to describe the display on a phone as beautiful, but this one is that. The contrast is shocking. Blacks are black. Colors are vibrant. It is gorgeous. The resolution is incredible. I wish every other screen I had to deal with was this sharp and clear, i.e. TV, computer monitor, theater screen, etc. The final price tag on the Epic was a little more, but well worth the extra for the keyboard and the advanced screen technology.

I have to admit that I do miss the push mail on my BlackBerry, and its incredible battery life. But, that’s all. My phone will cruise the internet like a big box, it plays videos (including Flash – take that, iPhone fanboys!), I can update my blog or The Holster Site from it, I can IRC on it… The list goes on and on. Needless to say, I’m happy with the upgrade. Now, I’m probably going to have a couple of BlackBerries for parts selling on ebay. Which I can do from my new phone, incidentally.