TiVo Hacks by Raffi Krikorian

In my impatience for TiVo To Go, I recently bought TiVo Hacks by Raffi Krikorianed.

In my impatience for TiVo To Go, I recently bought TiVo Hacks by Raffi Krikorianedstly useful hacks, like pretty much all of the books in the O’Reilly ____ Hacks series. I say mostly… who wants to make all of the text on your TiVo interface in italics (seriously, hack no. 9).

I’d say that of all the books out there for hacking your TiVo, this is probably the most concise and up-to-date. Of course, there’s part of the problem. If you have Series 2 TiVo, you trade off for nicer features with the inability to do many of the more popular hacks for the TiVo. You can’t use FTP to get your video off of your TiVo with a Series 2 becuase the video is scrambled on it. Okay, you can FTP it, but what’s the point? Anyway, none of this is the author’s fault, and he goes iinto some detail to explain exactly what models can do what.

The greatest hack, in my opinion, for any TiVo is going to be adding more hard drive space. You’re really not going to improve on the features of the UI by adding a screen clock and the whole web-surfing thing sounds fun until you remember that surfing with just a TiVo remote is going to suck (that’s why you have a laptop). Adding/replacing hard disks is the killer hack, and this book tells you pretty much all you need to know. Of course, all you may need to know is to just buy a kit from Bill Regnery. However, this book still goes a long way and I’d recommend it to anyone who owns a TiVo and is curious about what’s inside the box and how to make it do some cool tricks.

My Last Day

There’s some handwriting on the wall, but I can’t quite make it out…

There’s some handwriting on the wall, but I can’t quite make it out…

Many of you know that today was my last day working as a structural engineer for URS Corporation here in Richmond. My co-workers took me out ot a nice lunch at the nearby Mexican restaurant yesterday and pretty much all of my personal belongings have been brought home.

It has been good getting to work with all of the people there and I was able to work on some great projects. However, I came to realize that the kinds of projects I would most likely be seeing there were like the ones I had been doing. That being said, there wasn’t much promise of even more of the same coming. I didn’t expect I would be laid off, but I damn sure wasn’t about see another employee with kids or something get laid off before me, either.

I will admit that there were some times when I thought that the conversations on politics or religion were going to make my head explode. However, when you don’t have much in the way of workload, people tend to get into those kind of conversations. I for one think those are about as appropriate for a place of business as cut-off denim shorts, but that’s just me. All differences aside, I have been fortunate to work with a good group for the last three years.

I hope that all the people there at my old office will check in here often, as I’m sure I’ll have something to say about my new workplace. Also, that way, they can really get to know my opinion on all sorts of things I didn’t really care to discuss at work… such as cut-off denim shorts. Man, I hate those things…

TiVo To Go

There is a lot of news going around my household in this New Year. Not the least of which is the fact that tomorrow is the last day of my job at URS Corporation or that I have several new gadgets that don’t entirely work! That’s all for another time, though. This post is all about the TiVo.

TiVo announced the TiVo To Go service way back in January of ’04 and finally rolled it out on Monday. Well, they sort of rolled it out. They posted an updated version of TiVo desktop on their site and the newest version of the TiVo software will include the capabilities. Of course, the scheduled downloads for the box software don’t occur immediately. The best you can hope for is requesting priority and you might get it in the next few weeks. Further, there’s no Mac support as of yet.

Now, to be able to burn your recorded shows from your PC (again, not Mac as of yet) to DVD, you’ll use Sonic’s MyDVD v6.1, which was announced yesterday. I had a copy of MyDVD that was pre-loaded on my Dell Dimension 4600 Media Center PC. I didn’t really care for the interface, so I never really used it much. I purchased Nero 6 as soon as I got the PC and have used it ever since, especially since Nero soon added support for Microsoft’s .dvr-ms format mpeg video. That aside, a soon there-after bought a Plextor PX-708A DVD Burner and after a couple of frustrating days, finally learned that MyDVD + PX-708A = memory dump. Bad.

Sonic’s site lists the PX-708A as compatible hardware, so hopefully that problem’s fixed now. None-the-less, this is now one more piece of software that does something that another piece of software I already own does, with the exception of one tiny task which will cost around $50. Not to sound cheap, but why can’t TiVo and Nero get together on this as well? Since Bill Gates announced at CES earlier today that Microsoft’s going to support TiVo ToGo in Windows software, why can’t Nero be on board?

I’m addicted to TiVo and desparately want the ability to get my video files to and from the machine to some network storage or my PC. However, I’m not crazy about buying another piece of software that I wasn’t impressed with before to replace some software that I really like.

Lastly, on the TiVo front, they’ve been taking a lot of flack over their sollution to skipping over advertising. The idea is that when you fast-forward through 2 minutes (or so) of commericals, a static banner ad will pop up on the screen. Frankly, I don’t care so long as it doesn’t eat up my bandwidth. I’m watching people zip around the screen at 4x FF, what do I care if an ad is slapped over that? Ads are everywhere, and good ads are an artform. People get too upset over advertising to realize that when done right (and whose to say this won’t be), it helps the customer connect with a supplier. It does appear that some people seem to agree that this is a non-issue, and I think that no one is goign to get rid of their TiVo based on this. Further, this is a whole lot more tenable than the Senate’s stupid sollution to making fast-forward illegal!

After doing some further reading, I thought I’d post this link to a response on the TiVo commercial skip stuff from one of the product managers at TiVo.

Bridges In Wired

It’s like Wired magazine reads my mind or something. They continually print & post the coolest articles on everything I love. This is no different. David Goldenberg has written a nice (albeit short) article on what he states are the five top bridges in "a third golden age of bridge building." He’s made some nice choices, although a few too many cable-stayed bridges in my opinion. You can read the article in the January issue or online here.

The most hi-tech bridge I’ve worked on to date would be the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven, CT. Called the Q-Bridge for short, it is an extradosed cable-stayed bridge, which will be the first of it’s kind in the United States. I worked on portions of the steel option, which would be the only steel extradosed bridge in world. Pretty cool stuff, although not the most likely option.

Music Industry

I thought I might post some of my thoughts on the music industry, where it’s at and where it might be going. However, if you aren’t familiar with The Long Tail, you have to read the article which appeared in the October issue of Wired Magazine. Go read it here now.

I thought I might post some of my thoughts on the music industry, where it’s at and where it might be going. However, if you aren’t familiar with The Long Tail, you have to read the article which appeared in the October issue of Wired Magazine. Go read it here now in a new Firefox tab and then come back here. Later, you can read all the arguments for and against the article at the web site for The Long Tail book.

Okay, so I have to admit that other than a brother and a good friend which most would consider indie musicians, I have absolutely no affiliation with the music industry other than the most common: consumer. That’s not to say it’s not an important role, though. I’m the guy who along with my millions of peers either buys or doesn’t buy the music. It does take me for this whole model to work. I do believe that it starts with the artist, though. The songwriters and performers are both the chicken and the egg here. That being said, I also believe that the middle men perform the most meaningless task in the process. I was recently reminded that coughing up the cash for marketing and mass-production could be seen as the most crucial part, and I’m sure that record executives feel that way about it, too. However, after reading this article, seeing how free journalism (read: blogs) can influence the entire country, and my own personal experience in meeting people from around the globe through my website; I’ve decided that this simply isn’t the case anymore.

Here’s my new improved model: instant access to the tip of the long tail. I put my music in digital format (this goes for books, etc, as well). I’ll pay for hosting the files on iTunes, Amazon, Tower, where ever I want I think I can find some toe-hold of a market. Then, I use word-of-mouth, playing shows, and blogs to find an audience. With sweat and luck, a number of recommendations start pointing to me. As long as these recommendations are genuine, and not like pay-for-play on some Clear Channel station, then they will work. People can listen before they buy and, assuming price is right, they will buy. So, I start to move up the tail some. Best part for all you Downhill Battle geeks, no record label. Period. If I want help with my marketing, etc. I join a musician & songwriter collective. This gains buying power and larger influence. This already works for independent grocery stores, pharmacies, and on and on; why not for musicians? The model for the music business is the most complex I’ve ever heard of. It doesn’t have to be this way. The technology available for communication between humans (which is pretty much what both marketing and music boil down to) is to a point that this model is now obsolete.

Now, I realize that being out on the skinny end of this long tail isn’t going to make stadium-playing-rock-gods out of my friends and family. It will, at best, pay the rent; and that’s going to be about as good as one can hope. But isn’t that much different than the way it is now? I’ve got as good a chance as playing starting forward for the Wizards as I’ve got going platinum, so what’s to loose? If you’re not U2, then not too much. However, the fact that the music industry protects itself doesn’t help someone on the verge of getting in. You start selling your songs on your own, and you’ll never get signed on to a major label. That’s a risk that would be tough if you feel like a deal with a label (major or indie) is just around the corner. However, for all but the best selling musicians these days, that’s not too big of a risk. Unless you’re in the top 10%(or so) of artists in terms of sales, you’re probably not getting much airtime or support.

As an aside, go read up on some great ideas on file sharing networks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well. Also, check out some of the links above. You’ll see that I’m pretty much just regurgitating some great ideas that are already out there, but you’ll also see I’m not alone in my frustration as both a listener of music and someone who gives a damn about artists trying to make a living. Lastly, if you like a song, buy the damn music!

The Sign of Things To Come

You can easily see that things are very different around here. It’s a new year, and I’ve got what appears to be a new site at first glance. I’ve switched from Blogger to WordPress & also switched web servers. This is all thanks to my good friend Jason Johnson, who is graciously helping me get up to speed on all things WWW. Now, ironically, Jason has authored many a site on the internet and has helped me learn everything from the <html> tag to some very simple php (as of a couple of days ago); but his site has been in the "beginning" stages for years now.

This site is going to continue to go through some radical changes over the next two weeks, at which point, it better be done. I’m starting a new job and I don’t expect I’ll have nearly as much time for such diversions. I hope I’ll have time for posting anything other than how little time I have. These changes will include a new look, some organization, and hopefully many interesting links to keep someone busy for at least 5 minutes. I’m excited about all the new possibilities, and if you end up liking this site, thank the other Jason for me. He’s a brilliant designer and coder, and throws a mean New Year’s Eve party with Stacie.

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to post a short message here wishing all my readers (okay, my Mom & Dad!) a Merry Christmas. Also, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus and all other biggie-December holidays (hence, the non-specific ‘Happy Holidays’ that has some folks banning stores). Best wishes and Happy New Year.

I’m currently with my wife visiting with all of her family. Then, we’re off to land of dial-ups and non-24-hour supermarkets to visit my family in the mountains. At least we have snow (okay, ice & slush), if not broadband.

Robocop

Screen Shot of Robot Commercial

How come I don’t see commercials this cool on television? Seriously, I wouldn’t fast-forward right through them with TiVo if 1 out of 10 were this fun to watch. Okay, so this isn’t a real commercial for anything, but still; you could place robots like this in Bengay commercials and I’d watch the religiously. The image links directly to the video, even though the team responsible has asked folks not to. I don’t think the two or three clicks this will get is going to bother them. Here’s their site just in case you design-types want to know more.

If you like this commercial, synthetic rabbit posted another great one (for a real product) on his site here.

Finally, how cool is a robot with Wifi antennae, rabbit-like ears? I love it.

UPDATE: The links above aren’t broken, you just need to look down the page for the Tetra Vaal Video.

And I Thought I Was Having A Bad Day

Harry With Elizabethan Collar and Head Bandage

Here I was feeling sorry for myself that I was out on site until very early this morning. Well around 8:00am Angela called me to tell me Harry was bleeding badly and needed to be taken to the Vet. Turns out he just had a small tear in his ear, so he’s okay. I don’t think he’s too happy, though.

While all the forensic evidence isn’t back from the lab yet, we’re pretty sure it was some doggy rough-housing while Angela was busy with breakfast. Sometimes our newer dog, Maggie, doesn’t seem to realize she’s about 2 1/2 times the size of Harry. Harry also doesn’t keep this fact in mind sometimes while wrestling her. The good news is, Harry gets to take the bandage off on Monday.

This Site’s Not All That’s Under Construction

Well, I’ve just come back in from the cold. Literally. I’ve been out most all night and into the morning at a construction site in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia on a construction monitoring job. Yes, I watch people work on construction. It’s not a bad gig, if you’ve got long thermal underwear and a good book to read by dome-light in your car. Oh yeah, you’ll also want a decent pair of work boots because the stuff that this operation digs up is like walking through the waste site of a modeling clay factory.

Setting up to take level shots at the construciton site

Essentially, a Jack & Bore pipe installation is a method of pushing a pipe through the ground from one opening to the next, all the while, using a auger inside the pipe to bore out the soil it is displacing. It’s a good way to get a pipe under something you can’t disturb, like say a railroad. Wikipedia doesn’t have anything on Jacking and Boring pipe, and I didn’t see anything with much googlarity to even bother with posting on here. Suffice it to say, if you really need to know about this sort of procedure, then you probably already do.

However, this doesn’t really explain why I’m posting about it at the middle of the morning on the weekend. Back to the whole monitoring thing, I’m out with a co-working taking surveying data and writing field reports covering the construction underway. It’s boring enough, but on top of that, the current temperature outside is around 35° F. I’m not really loving my job right now.

That’s too bad, because my co-worker just called my room and it’s off to the job site to take another round of level shots.