How I Know I’ll Be Married A Long Time – Part III

This past weekend, it had finally gotten warm enough I could no longer put off my duties as house grounds keeper. I spent part of Saturday trimming, edging, weeding and mowing. After Angela got home around 6:00 pm, I wrapped up and took a shower. Afterwards, I decided it was time to shave the beard off for the Spring. Pale, sweaty guys are disgusting enough. You add a beard on them, and man, good luck holding down your lunch.

As Angela stood there with a certain smile on her face that only comes from months of anticipation (not a fan of the beard, that one), she said to me:

"Now you’re going to have change you Mii as well."

I was thinking the exact same thing.

My Gmail is Better Than Your Gmail

A couple of weeks ago now, issues with Dreamhost not withstanding, I converted over to using Gmail for my own domain after signing up for Google Applications for your (my) Domain. While this makes essentially no difference at all to anyone else, other than avoiding confusion on which e-mail account to respond to, it will hopefully simplify my e-mail woes and spam volume.

There are certainly work-arounds to using Gmail with your other e-mail addresses and those are fine, but I wanted one that was less troublesome than just forwarding addresses. I wanted to be able to send, receive, and store e-mail with what I consider to be my permanent address. Lastly, I wanted this to integrate with my desktop mail program, in effect give me off-site access and storage of my entire e-mail. Porting e-mail archives is painful and this will go a long way to easing that in the future.

First is easy: just sign up for Google Apps at your domain (it’s actually Gmail, calendar, docs & spreadsheets, etc. all together). Next, in order to use the e-mail address, you’ll have to have DNS registry access to your domain. If you personally registered your domain and host your files, or at least know the person who does this, chances are you do. Once you’ve activated your Google Apps account, you’ll have to log into your hosting management site and alter your DNS, or MX records, for mail. Google has some instructions for most major hosting services as well as generic ones. Dreamhost, where this very file is sitting right now, has some specific directions on what to change to in their Wiki. Two points:

  1. The priority value goes first, example: 10 ASPMX2.GOOGLEMAIL.COM.
  2. That last period is very important, so don’t think it’s just misplaced punctuation in the instructions.

Now, you’ve got your DNS records changed, the next step is to wait. It took well over 24 hours for the DNS records to propagate after I changed mine, which is much longer than what it seemed to take for plain old http DNS changes. This may have just been a fluke, but there’s a very good chance some e-mail to you will get bounced back to the sender as "undeliverable" over the next day or so. You can keep track of the progress by simply entering your domain name here.

The hardest step for me was setting up Mail.app. That’s just because the instructions at Google are really written for a typical Gmail account, where as some of the settings are obviously slightly different for your site. Basically, you’ll use all the same setting just with your own domain e-mail in both the e-mail address (well, duh!) and username fields. Also, don’t forget to check the “Use SSL” box in the Advanced settings tab. Okay, I’m not even sure why that took me more than two minutes to figure out. There are instructions for most common desktop e-mail applications, as well.

So far, using G-mail is great. I had to set up some rules in Mail to stick e-mails I sent from my Gmail panel into the correct "Sent" in mail. As of yet, I don’t know if there’s any way to get Mail and Gmail to sync such that a e-mail deleted in one is removed in the other. Chances are, that’s just asking for too much. However, having some very robust spam filtering alone has been worth it (my spam has nearly eliminated at this point). Further, I like the idea of not having to struggle to import or copy over e-mail when switching machines when that comes up again. It’ll always be sitting there on my Gmail account’s server.

I highly recommend using this solution over two separate e-mail accounts or the desktop-only or g-mail-only approach. It really is the best of both worlds. The only real hurdle is having access to an e-mail address for which you can change the DNS settings for and that’s most everyone I know now, to tell the truth. If not, then consider buying a domain name on the cheap, will ya?

Update Oct. 24th, 2007 — Google is currently in the process of rolling out IMAP for Gmail. Unlike POP accounts, IMAP does sync various changes across platforms. This means that reading or deleting an e-mail in one place changes it in the other. I can’t see why this solution is now anything less than perfect.

I Am In Need Of A Nap

I’ll spare you all the "sorry I’ve not blogged in a while…" stuff and skip straight to the explanation of why I’ve been occupied with other things. As some of you have seen on Flickr, we’ve been in the process of working on our kitchen. It’s something that we (and by that, I mean 90% Angela) have been wanting to do for the past few years now. However, going without a kitchen and working desperately to get it back over the past few weeks has essentially sucked the life out of me. I mean, left me competely devoid of emotions other than rage and self-pity.

In short: kitchen renovations really suck, especially when you are trying to do a lot of it yourself.

I’m extremely happy with how everything has come together. We still need to paint, but of course, we need to paint over half the rooms in the house. However, the new counters, floors, and appliances look great and Angela seems very pleased with them.

New Appliances

Not entirely done, but you get an idea of what the new kitchen looks like.

This is good, because I have begged her to not speak of or even hint at moving for at least the rest of the year. Were the room larger, I would sleep in our "new" kitchen. After getting cut, burned, and shocked1 all in the process of working on it, I feel a certain sense of ownership that doesn’t come from just paying people to do things for you (although we did pay an electrician and a plumber to do some of the work way out of my league). It’s not so much as pride in my work (as it’s not the greatest, by far) but more like the pride of fatherhood.

Yes, that will seem like a stupid statement in about five more months but for right now, I dare anyone to come between my new kitchen and me; let alone threaten to harm it. I’ll bite you.

  1. I stabbed my left thumb attaching a romex lock on the new garbage disposal, I burned my left middle finger with a Roto-zip blade, and I got shocked when I pushed a fish tape into a wire. All my fault and none were particularly life threatening. I did curse a fair amount, though. []

Geekdad at Wired

Chris Anderson (editor in chief at Wired mag and author of The Long Tail) announced a new blog at Wired.com this afternoon: Geekdad. It looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun projects, gadgets, and advice from the point of view of dads. Needless to day, I’m excited and it (as well as doing projects out of Make magazine with our kid). Also, check out this list of the "Top ten reasons Geeks make good fathers," written by the wife of a geeky dad (and also found on Geekdad).

Some Inspiration For This Site

A remark by Jason Kottke on his site today in how he sees his site as being similar to a bar he enjoyed in New York: "Maybe I like this approach so much because it reminds me of the way in which I edit kottke.org. This isn’t a tech site or a design site or a pop culture site or a news site…I’ll put anything on kottke.org as long as it’s interesting, topic be damned." That is a lot of what super-structure is to me; a collection of all the things I find interest or value in. I welcome anyone pop inside my head to read it or take part in the conversation, but I guess I’m the main audience I’m writing for.

Geek Test: I Failed

Looks like I have some serious reading to do:

  1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
  3. Dune, Frank Herbert
  4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
  5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
  6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
  8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
  9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
  10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
  12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
  14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
  15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
  16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
  17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
  18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
  19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
  20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
  21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
  22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
  23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
  24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
  25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
  26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
  27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
  28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
  29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
  30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
  31. Little, Big, John Crowley
  32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
  33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
  34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
  35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
  36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
  37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
  38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
  39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
  40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
  41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
  42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
  43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
  44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
  45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
  46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
  47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
  48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
  49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
  50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

I’ve put the one’s I’ve actually read, from cover to cover, in bold. I’m being very honest here. Frankly, as someone who thinks he’s a fairly well read geek (I even took a class in college on this stuff, no kidding!), this is very humbling. I’m not claiming to any that I’ve seen the movie ten times on or have talked about enough with others that I know everything that happens. No, only the one’s I’ve honestly read.

So how about you? I know a lot of the people who read my site read many more books than I do. Care to put up your list? No fudging the truth, now (Sorry, Stephen, the graphic novel of Elric I got you doesn’t count since it’s a different book than Stormbringer.).

Also, I would like to say that I’ve read a couple that are older than 50 years that would surely make the list for the past century.

They Just Keep Coming (to Virginia)

Last weekend was a fun-filled one, with a ski trip to Wintergreen with Grace Covenant Presbyterian as well as a visit to Richmond by our good friend, Kevin O’Mara.

The ski trip was a blast, even though a few of the kids backed out at last minute. The people that went, both teenagers and adults, were there to get to know one another, enjoy the great outdoors, and ski/snowboard. That made my job of “youth leader” very easy. Of course, Angela was actually there for the use of Wintergreens fancy spa facilities, but she did help with making breakfast so the skiers and snowboarders would have full bellies and plenty of energy until lunch-time. I never really gave a lot of thought to being a “youth leader” since my scouting days, but Angela and I have both been asked to help out with that some through our church. Honestly, it’s a no-brainer for me: I really enjoyed getting to hang out with these kids. I have my reservations in thinking that parenting will always be as fun (I hear that can be real work, huh, Mom & Dad?). However, after having gone rock climbing and now skiing with some of the youth at our church, I’m looking forward to the next adventure I get to tag along with.

Lift Line

Some of the young people from out church in the lift line along with our pastor, Chris.

A great deal of our involvement in this has been due to the encouragement and lead of our church’s new associate pastor, Chris Thomas. He and his wife Stephanie (and their two cute little girls) have been a wonderful addition to our church and we’re happy to call them our friends. Of course, my family grew up with a family minister who was more like a cool uncle than most folks probably see their church leader, so it’s not really so odd to me. However, I suppose a lot of folks might see it differently given their mental image of who or what a pastor is. Well, Chris is a thirty-something hipster from California by way of Boston who happens to be a thoughtful man of God (and a heck of a snowboarder, too). Having him and his family in our lives has been great for so many reasons and it’s a blast to get to hang out with them. So much so, I feel guilty when people actually feel the need to thank me for going on trips with their teenage kids.

Anyway, all of this just added to why it was so bizarre and unfortunate that on his last run of the day Saturday, Chris landed a jump badly and injured himself. At first, he seemed pretty sure that he had damaged the same knee he had hurt a few years earlier during another snowboarding accident. Now, it appears more likely he actually just broke his lower leg near his knee. I suppose that’s better, in a sense, as it is more likely to heal without surgery or further complications (in my limited knowledge of leg injuries, anyway). I felt bad that this happened on a trip he was in charge of and I hope he is able to heal quickly so he can get back to work. I also want him to get well soon so we can go out on more fun trips!

Also, after we got back home and I was getting over being sore all over from a day full of skiing (I’m not very good, but I enjoy it) we got a surprise call from Kevin on Sunday afternoon. He was in town, no less, and was wanting to meet up with us for dinner.

Angela and I met Kevin over at the home of Richmond’s newest addition, and also some people we’re very glad live here now, Trey and Megan. Kevin was interested in getting some Vietnamese food and Angela had a good suggestion. Vietnamese isn’t particularly our favorite, but we were up for it all the same and how could we deny someone who longed for it so? Dinner at Mekong was good and we followed it up with desert at the newly renovated Bev’s Ice Cream in Carytown. Afterwards, we hung out at Trey and Megan’s place laughing and enjoying some port and cheese. The port was fairly new to me, as I’d only had it once or twice before, but the blue cheese and Gouda was crazy good. It was also great fun to get to spend time cutting up with good friends.

WERE IN UR CAR, [verbing] UR [noun]

Kevin tells me he took this photo on his camera phone right after calling me about dinner. I like to think they’re all so happy because I said we’d go. Photo by Kevin O’Mara, used under a CC 2.0 license.

And speaking of coming to Virginia, my brother Dave is on his way as I write this for a show tonight in Ashland with The Coal Men and Stephen Simmons. I always enjoy when they come up to play and the it seems many others are as well, as more and more people show up each time the come. Angela and I are looking forward to enjoying a good dinner and show up there this evening. The house is in a wrecked state, so we’ll probably have to take them out for breakfast (instead of Angela’s always well-received breakfasts), but it’ll be a lot of fun to get to see them all.

With all these people coming to Richmond and such good friends to spend time with, I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to working on the stuff that needs to get done at the house!

Amazon UnBox On My TiVo

So, many of you may have heard the news that Amazon opened up their Unbox for TiVo service today. This was way ahead of anything I expected, as I just figured it would be sort of like the vapor-agreement TiVo had with Netflix. However, the service was up and running not very long at all after the initial announcement, just two months ago. Once again, TiVo somehow manages to not only survive, but surprise me and just about everyone else.

I signed up for the account earlier today, which took no more effort than going to a page on Amazon and entering your e-mail and password associated with my TiVo account1. For the next month or so, Amazon is even giving a $15 credit for TiVo users who sign up. That’s pretty enticing for something that is easier to sign up for than most web 2.0 services.

Unbox For TiVo

I was actually somewhat surprised to see just how nice the offerings were at Amazon. Not all of the Unbox store is able to be downloaded to a Tivo (yet), but I imagine that’s not going to take long. It doesn’t appear that any major networks or studios are really holding out just yet. There are movies, which may be purchased or rented, with prices between $8 and $16 to buy and around $4 to rent. I have no idea how long a “rental” lasts on the TiVo, but I’d guess three to four days from the time the download begins.

I saw quite a few shows that I enjoy (although I noted that it seems the iTunes store currently has more offerings, with some of the popular ABC shows being a big hole at Amazon right now). I ended up just downloading an episode of Arrested Development since I have the DVD’s and had even recorded some episodes on the TiVo a while ago (all of Seasons 1 and 2 are available, I chose Episode 4 "Good Grief" from Season 2). I figured this would allow me to be able to make a fair comparison for quality. Purchasing was painless with Amazon’s patented2 One-click purchase. All I had to do was select which TiVo box to send the download to from a pull down menu (it had found both of them by name from my account after I provided my information; yes, we have to Tivo boxes. Don’t judge us.). I selected our “Sunroom” unit so I could watch the show while on the treadmill (seriously, stop judging me. I mean it.). Amazon states that the download begin and appear in the “Now Playing” list on the TiVo unit selected within 15 minutes. Well, it was more like 30-40 minutes. Further, it took another hour or so for it to be available to watch3, and this was only a 22 minute program. I’m assuming that increases to a few hours for a feature film (rental or purchase).

screenshots of Amazon Unbox on my TiVo

Screenshots of the TiVo menus under the "Now Playing" section of the TiVo.

Quality in the Unbox

I didn’t have a lot of expectations for the quality of the video to be honest. However, I was glad to see I had underestimated the quality somewhat. It was at least as good as the “high” quality recording setting on the TiVo itself. Of course, we only have standard definition TiVos on our SD television sets. All the same, I don’t think it is going to disappoint the average Series 2 Tivo owner.

Now, you are not able to transfer the show to another TiVo or to a TiVo Desktop server on your network. I’m not going to say it’s impossible to get the video file off of there, but the effort such a thing would require wouldn’t be at all worth it. There doesn’t appear to be any time limit or expiration date on purchases programs or movies, though. Again, I’m not sure how the rental option works.

Screenshot of Unbox Video

G.O.B. performing magic is magic to me. While this screen photo is pretty bad, the actual quality of the picture is really good; standard definition with no noticeable artifacts or compression issues.

Some Potential in the Unbox

I’m going to say it: this is the first true implementation of consumer-friendly IPTV. It for sure isn’t the first or even the most ideal method of having content brought via the internet to your television. However, provided one has both a networked TiVo and an Amazon account, it is remarkably easy to use (in typical TiVo fashion). Short of setting up a secure home network, which isn’t always the easiest thing in the world, virtually anyone could be watching downloaded content from the comfort of their living room in no time. TiVo and Amazon beat Apple to the market on this one and only time will tell if they can gain and keep some of the market share as a result.

Is this the Netflix or the iTMS killer? Probably not. Amazon, while known for having possibly the largest media catalog on the planet, may not yet have access or agreements in place to provide all that media to the consumer int his fashion. As we have seen time and time again, that is proving to be the killer step in the race to provide content in this market. Certainly, TiVo and Amazon have put together an fairly impressive offering here, though. If they could have a set monthly fee for rentals and open up more of Amazon’s vast catalog, I imagine Angela and I would easily choose this over Netflix (sorry, as much as I love Netflix, their agreement with TiVo for this exact same service fizzled). I have no doubt that the Apple TV will easily rival TiVo in quality of interface and ease of use. The prices for the content to buy are the same between Amazon and iTMS right now, but Apple has yet to do any sort of rental services. Is IPTV rental, or what we once called pay-per-view and Comcast now calls On-Demand, something consumers really want? If it is seen as paying an monthly fee to have limitless access to a nearly bottomless library of video entertainment, the quite possibly it is.

I had essentially no expectations of the Amazon Unbox for TiVo service and so I was honestly pleased to see just how easy it is to use and the level of quality it has. There are no doubt DRM demons waiting to spoil my fun here. Further, in a market where content is everything, getting media owners to allow them to use this is going to be the real race. Whoever ends up on top, having both Amazon and Apple in our living rooms is going to help consumers in the end.

  1. Of course, I already have our TiVo’s connected to the home network which has a broadband connection. It would certainly take someone with a brand new TiVo more than the 30 seconds it took me. []
  2. World’s lamest patent? Probably. []
  3. Unlike transfers between TiVo units over a home network, you cannot begin watching a Unbox download until it is entirely finished. Frankly, I’d say this is a wise thing since internet download speeds can be wonky on a file this large and it is very frustrating to have a video pause for some network lag. []