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. []