February 28, 2005
Yesterday Szu-Huey and I watched Terminator 2. She liked the first one, so we watched the second one. It was great on the 92" screen. We will watch the third one next.
I did notice that the dark scenes had a blue emphasis. This is what I was told to expect at Secrets of Home Theater based on their review of the Hitachi PJTX100. It should be fixed with the color correcting filter that I have on order, assuming those dark scenes were not supposed to have the blue cast.
February 27, 2005
A while ago I posted about how I completed a DIY projector screen. What I didn't mention is that it was not perfectly planar. To try and correct this, I braced it against the back wall with some 13" rods and the left, center, and right speakers pushing up against the frame. But I didn't want this to be the final situation, as that meant vibrations in the speaker cabinets would be affected by the frame and the other speakers. So today I built some weights to take the place of the speakers in pushing against the frame.
I built two of these weights. The construction is very simple. I purchased two 12" diameter melamine boards to serve as the base, and screwed a 3" black ABS cap into the center using 3/8" machine screws, washers, and nuts. I then leveled the base with level-adjusting floor protectors, 120° apart and 2" in from the edge. A 3' long section of black ABS pipe was inserted into the base cap, filled with sand, and then I put a cap on the top to close it off. No glue necessary; everything fits snug.
The resulting pipes are not very heavy, but have decent mass, and are capable of holding the screen's frame against the 13" rods. So the four corners of the frame are equidistant from the back wall, and the plane of the frame is relatively parallel to the back wall.
February 26, 2005
Rudeness at the HP Pavilion
Video recording of the show is prohibited, but taking photos is not. Szu-Huey had her digital camera with the LCD screen on, and pointed at the stage so she would be ready to take pictures whenever the skaters stopped moving. However, the HP Pavilion staff believed this meant she was recording the show to video. So one of them came over and said, "Turn it off." Szu-Huey replied that she was not recording, and his response was, "Just turn it off." He was quite gruff and did not make any attempt at politeness. Szu-Huey was not happy.
So we are boycotting the HP Pavilion from now on. And possibly HP as well because this service reflects badly upon their venue. It may not be operated by HP, but it is an official HP venue named after HP.
February 24, 2005
6" Mount Too Short
I ordered a cheap Cinemagear 6" Universal Projector Mount to try and save some money. Unfortunately, I should have spent more getting a higher quality mount. This cheap projector does not provide what I need for a correct ceiling mount.
For starters, the Hitachi PJTX100 uses metric M6 screws. This mount doesn't come with those screws, and the adjustment screws it does include are not compatible with the thicker M6 diameter. I had to jury-rig a solution using M6 screws and locking nuts, but I spent way too much time driving back and forth from both The Home Depot and Orchard Supply Hardware buying random screws to try. I didn't want to actually bring the projector to the store as it might've gotten damaged.
Secondly, the 6" ceiling drop provided by the mount is too low because there is a drop in the ceiling of my home theater where the house used to end. The front half of my home theater room is an extension that was added to the house several years ago. This drop is quite large at 14" and right now, the projector cannot get past this with the lens shift. I would have to lower the screen almost to the floor for this to work, and then use digital keystone correction which will degrade the image quality.
So I've emailed the company I purchased the mount from to see if I can exchange it for a 12" projector mount. Same brand, different model with an extension arm. Then I should not have any problems with the drop in my ceiling where the previous exterior wall was located.
If I can't do that, then I have two options: I can either eBay the 6" mount and order the 12" mount, or I can purchase a wooden block to extend the mount point from the ceiling. If I wrap the wood in black felt, it won't look so bad.
February 23, 2005
GitS:SAC Soundtrack / Be Human
The first two limited edition DVD releases of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex included audio CDs of the OST and Be Human. I found both of these albums to be very good and I've enjoyed listening to them a few times now. Hopefully the second OST will be made available in one of the upcoming limited edition releases.
The GitS:SAC soundtrack was done by Yoko Kanno. Turns out she's done a whole lot of anime soundtracks, including The Vision of Escaflowne, which also has a good musical score, although one that involves a lot of repetition between episodes.
Spylab - This Utopia
I found Spylab - This Utopia on Overstock the same time I found Caia - The Magic Dragon. Also for only $1. This is a decent album, but I don't think there's anything particularly special about it. Perhaps I just need to listen to it again more closely.
February 22, 2005
Caia - The Magic Dragon
I ordered Caia - The Magic Dragon off Overstock the other day. They had it for only $1. It's a pretty good album, with some interesting stuff on there. I wouldn't say it is amazing, but it adds some nice variety to my collection. The tracks are unique, and make for enjoyable listening. This album was actually on my wishlist for quite a while. I don't remember how I found out about it.
Szu-Huey and I watched The Terminator yesterday. It looked really good on the big screen. However, the projector isn't mounted yet so there was very audible fan noise behind us during quiet parts in the movie. Plus, light is still reflecting off the top of my center channel, causing extra light on the screen and also serving as a distraction. Hopefully some of thes problems will be fixed once I have the projector mounted.
RPTV Gaming Setup
Since I got the Hitachi PJTX100, I no longer have the Panasonic PT-50LC13 in the home theater. Instead, I've moved it into the bedroom and I will play video games on that since the bulb will last longer and is covered under the Sears warranty. So they should change the bulb for me if it breaks or burns out. I'm setting up the RPTV with the pair of Castle Avon speakers I got from JEJ. Szu-Huey's landlords work for Sony and have ordered a receiver for me: the STR-DE597. I need a full home theater receiver because I want the video switching and optical audio inputs, even for just 2-channel audio.
DIY Projector Screen
I completed building my DIY projector screen and it is now hanging from the ceiling in the home theater room. It consists of a 2x4" fir frame, held together using a pair of L-brackets in each corner. This frame was covered with black felt, and blackout cloth (free of blemishes) was stretched across the back using a canvas puller and staples. The frame is hung from the ceiling using eye-hooks and steel cable rated for a total maximum weight of 240 pounds. It is stablized against the wall using the speakers and 13" wooden rods.
Szu-Huey helped with screwing together the frame, pulling the blackout cloth, and hanging it from the ceiling. We've watched a few things so far, without calibration, and it looks excellent. The screen has a very good level of uniform gain, and the viewing angle is extremely wide. I think blackout cloth must be better than professional projection screens, although I haven't seen many.
FCC Broadcast Flag Out-of-Bounds
A U.S. Appeals court ruled that the FCC overstepped their authority when they put the broadcast flag into place. This flag is designed to prevent consumer devices from making copies of broadcast content, and was heavily pushed by the broadcasting industry. The law is supposed to be enabled in a few months. Said the judge, "Selling televisions is not what the FCC is in the business of". Unfortunately, it isn't clear whether or not this ruling will stand, as consumer groups may not have the necessary legal standing required to bring such a case to court.
February 17, 2005
The Handmaid's Tale
I just finished reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I saw the movie a couple years ago with Alan which is what prompted me to want to read the book. The book is a satire of right-wing politics and women's suffrage.
The thing about The Handmaid's Tale is that it was written in 1939 when the role of woman in American culture was changing, and right before many of those changes were solidified by World War II.
I believe there are two criticisms present in this book. The first is the belittling attitude by men towards women. This attitude does in fact still persist today, although it has been greatly reduced. A person cannot covet that which she cannot know, and promoting the bliss of ignorance on the masses is a very powerful form of control.
The second criticism is that of a government that controls the masses through indoctrination, media, and a system of punishment, rewards, and release. There was a line in the book that read similar to how the smallest rewards become much more valuable when everything else is withheld. And furthering the indoctrination by twisting history and controlling the media ensures ignorance and uniform thought. Providing the occasional release of the pressure created by this environment helps keep rebellions down.
Unfortunately, this second criticism is exactly what is happening in the United States today. And it is working.
February 16, 2005
Ellen and Alla gave me my birthday present today: a remote control light dimmer. I installed it in the home theater today and it works great. The previous incandescent lights were making a lot of noise when dimmed though, so I went to The Home Depot and purchased some expensive high-quality halogen bulbs and checked the filaments by shaking them at the store. The noise created during dimming is sometimes called humming or singing.
These new halogen bulbs have a short neck, however, because the long neck ones rattled a lot when I shook them. Probably because there is a longer binding post for the filament in the long neck bulbs. Since my recessed lighting receptacles are built for long neck bulbs, I had to take them apart, bend the insides with pliers, and now the short neck bulbs can fit although it looks a little funny. The noise is greatly reduced when dimmed with these bulbs.
So I've finally got a remote dimmer for the home theater lights. No more getting up to adjust the lights. It's very good.
When Alla and Ellen gave me the present, they wrapped it in a bag that says "Party Girl" or "Pretty Girl" on it. And then Ellen crossed out the Girl part on one of them and replaced it with Boy. Jeanne helped them plan this gift wrapping.
February 15, 2005
I found an amazing deal on eBay this morning for a Hitachi PJTX100 projector. It was a one-day auction and I grabbed for about half list price, and several hundred below street price. This won the Secrets' award for 2004 LCD projector of the year (review).
I was originally looking for a Sanyo PLV-Z2 as this has a street much cheaper than the PJTX100, but this deal allowed me to get the PJTX100 for a couple hundred more than the street price of the PLV-Z2. Hopefully the projector will arrive soon, as looking at the seller's feedback, it seems he may be slow to ship.
February 14, 2005
I met up with Mehnaz today and we went looking at television sets. She wants to get a flat-panel set for her apartment. Looking at a bunch of models, it narrowed down to an open-box 42" Sylvania 6842PE or a 26" Panasonic TC-26LX20. Going with the open-box Sylvania would get her a much larger picture and save her several hundred dollars. However, the picture of the Panasonic does appear better, and there is no risk of burn-out as her primary viewing patterns are for standard-definition.
While we were there, I looked at some of the audio gear in Good Guys. The Monitor Audio speakers I bought last year have gone down in price. I would be interested in upgrading my speakers, but I don't think I'll be doing that anytime soon. I'd want to go much better, which means several thousand dollars more than what my current speakers are worth.
February 13, 2005
I went to The Home Depot today and bought a cheap rake, manual soil tiller, and electric hedge trimmer. The hedge trimmer was a really good buy for only $30. I used it to trim the flower bushes outside the living room window and also to kill the vines that have been taking over the backyard. These vines have been growing like crazy and they're eating up everything back there. I killed the ones that took over the side fence today. It's a lot easier to move around there now.
Pooh's Heffalump Movie
Szu-Huey is a big fan of Winnie the Pooh, and got some free tickets from Disney to see the new Pooh's Heffalump Movie. She liked it a lot. I thought it was a good Pooh movie but I didn't like it as much as her.
February 12, 2005
Szu-Huey and I went to Blockbuster today and bought some new movies from them. But then I checked the prices online at DVD Price Search and the only one cheaper at Blockbuster as G.I. Jane. So I will return the rest of them tomorrow. We watched G.I. Jane tonight.
This is the second time I've seen G.I. Jane. It's a really good movie. Since it came out in 1997, the widescreen was done a little oddly. The widescreen is the correct aspect ratio, but centered in the screen. So there are large black bars both on the top and bottom, and also on the sides. A couple of other movies I own do the same thing. Makes the picture a lot smaller.
February 11, 2005
The Cell Processor
This article is a little short on details, no doubt due to the general audience nature of IBM's session, but it would appear that IBM is taking going in a new direction to meet the technological needs of straight-forward application execution. Rather than introducing a lot of complexity to optimize instruction execution and multitasking, individual Cell processors (called SPEs) are relatively dumb but fast and parallel. All the SPEs work together to do things. I view it as distributed computing on a micro level.
But I may have interpreted things wrong. Read the article to get a better understanding.
February 10, 2005
Cyborgs are Born
Saw over at Ars Technica that researchers have given birth to the first cyborg babies. Carlo Montemagno, a researcher at UCLA, et al. grew muscles on silicon to perform mechanical actions given electronic stimuli. Expect religious backlash on this in the near future. [Screenshots: 1 2]
February 8, 2005
Shadowmarch Vol. 1
I finished reading Shadowmarch Vol. 1 by Tad Williams last night. I first picked up his earlier Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy which is probably my favorite Fantasy book. I call it a book because it is really only one story, despite being three or four volumes. The same can be said for his Otherland collection, but I don't think Otherland was as good. So far, Shadowmarch is very good.
Shadowmarch actually has an interesting history, because Tad tried to make it successful as an online-serial-only before bringing it to print in 2004. It was very successful as far as online serials go, but not successful enough to warrant continued existence in an online form only. I could not get into it, unfortunately, because of two problems. First, the serial format meant I was limited in what I could read. I prefer to read several chapters at a time. Second, reading it on the computer screen is not as enjoyable. Pages are easier to navigate and I like to read either in bed or while listening to music. This would be possible with a high-resolution electronic book format, but not with a web page and full computer.
I actually would prefer reading novels in a form factor similar to that found on the Star Trek television shows, but technology and the publishing industry hasn't gotten there yet.
I wasn't aware this was happening, but apparently there is an AIDS vaccine in clinical trials, and the first human trials of it began today in Pune, India. The drug is called tgAAC09 and is described as a recombinant adreno-associated viral vector. I don't know what that means, but the article clearly states that while human trials have begun, it looks like at least eight years before a vaccine is actually available.
February 7, 2005
I had my birthday party today. My real birthday was yesterday, the 5th, but I celebrated today. Szu-Huey cooked a lot of stuff and a bunch of my friends came over: Shannon + Yvonne, Mei-Ling, Alla, Stephen and his new girlfriend Michelle, Vandy, Everend, Scott, Karen, and Ellen. We ate a lot of stuff and then had chocolate blueberry cake. Yvonne got to play with the big foot-long matches I bought to light the furnace; she and Stephen used them to light the candles on my cake.
February 6, 2005
DeVry Institute Advertisement
So, I ran across a posting on MacSlash about a review of the new Mac mini. This review is entitled Mac Mini: The Empreror's New Computer and is written by someone named Jorge Lopez. At the bottom of the article, it states: "Jorge Lopez is a DeVry graduate with an MCSE certification and is currently the Chief Software Reviewer at Divisiontwo.com's Technology Insider." If this review is indicative of the people produced by DeVry, I think that's going to be an automatic fail on any resume I see.
If you take a closer look, of course, it becomes clear that DivisionTwo is running a huge joke site. Either that or it is composed of the stupidest people in the world. I'm pretty sure it's a joke site. The articles are not clearly jokes though. If you visit The Onion the articles are clearly fake because the subjects are stupid. Of course, there have been reports of people believing The Onion.
February 5, 2005
Hannibal - Inside Hammer
Ars Technica is one of my favorite technology paper sites. It also serves as a news site (much more filtered and coherent than /.) but what I really like about it are the technology papers. Hannibal is one of the writers for Ars Technica and he just put up a paper about the AMD Hammer CPU. In traditional Hannibal fashion, it is an easy read and contains a lot of useful information.
February 4, 2005
I finished watching Excel Saga a number of days ago but didn't get around to putting it into my blog because I've been so busy with work. I really liked this anime series because there is a lot of amusing stuff in there. It's parody taken to the extreme. It is different from the manga which I also want to get. Szu-Huey doesn't like Excel Saga though because Excel's voice is very irritating to her. Excel is supposed to be ultra-hyper and the way she talks is exactly that.
February 3, 2005
Just saw this article on Wired about how tens of thousands of Microsoft employees in Redmond, WA are buying Apple iPods. Despite the fact Microsoft publicly denounces the iPod and is trying to make big money off of their WMA format and competitor portable players. Turns out Microsoft employees are telling the company big time that their product just sucks.
Some of my favorite quotes from the article are:
- "I don't know what I was thinking. I'm sure that Microsoft employees are not buying iPods, or Macs or PlayStations." - In response to senior management expressing displeasure at the thought of Microsoft employees purchasing iPods from a local Apple store.
- "I don't really care if it pisses them off," he said. "I'll argue why they're doing it wrong. If you want me to stop using it, give me a product that works and is as easy to use." - Manager who flaunts his iPod on Microsoft campus.
- The Microsoft manager said he's heard from several executives who dutifully bought Microsoft-powered players, tried them, failed to get them working, and returned them in favor of an iPod.