Sunday, December 21, 2008

Apparently I’ve been tagged…

Thanks to SharePoint Dan/UVAGeek for tagging me. Something to get the mind wandering a little on this beautiful, cold winter solstice.

8 TV Shows I Watch
  1. Scrubs. I had never watched an episode until the summer of 2007. Now I own all seven seasons on DVD. It's been moved to ABC and hopefully will end it's eight-year run properly now (NBC really screwed Bill Lawrence over). It's remained well-written and funny throughout the years. Kudos to Bill.
  2. 30 Rock. Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin. *giggle*
  3. Saturday Night Live. It's still funny, usually. I'm going to miss Amy Poehler.
  4. 60 Minutes. We always watched it at home when I was a child. I think it made me appreciate good journalism all the much more.
  5. Dead Like Me. It's no longer on TV, but I just discovered it so it's new to me. Dark, funny commentary on the human existence.
  6. The Simpsons. Sure, I don't watch recent episodes every time they're on. But I have through season eight on DVD and it still makes me laugh. Purple monkey dishwasher.
  7. Lost. A simple (yet complex) pleasure.
  8. Moonlighting. Probably the best thing ABC ever produced. And my favorite show of all time. It's got David Addison. Enough said.
8 Favorite Restaurants
  1. Le Mistral. Only been there once, but I'd eat there weekly if we could afford it.
  2. 2941. Also only been there once, but ooo la la!
  3. Rabieng. One of the best Thai places ever. 
  4. 2 Amys. Warren, where are you?
  5. The Italian Store. Right alongside 2Amys for the best pizza around.
  6. Sushi Taro. Best sushi I've had in the DC area, besides the sushi counter at the Harris Teeter. :-)
  7. Bojangles. Still love that greasy fried chicken.
  8. Sammy T's. Have to make a pit-stop in Fredericksburg anytime we're driving up or down I-95. Always good food and lots of vegetarian choices too.
8 Things That Happened To Me or That I Did Today
  1. Was woken up multiple times by poor, sickly Zachary. He has yet another yucky cold.
  2. Cleaned up the attic. (Yesterday was basement cleanup and classic technology reorganization day.)
  3. Updated Windows Live One Care with a new prepaid subscription. That'll be the last time, seeing that Microsoft is dropping the product and offering a free anti-virus download sometime next year.
  4. Watched some football!
  5. Got Zachary to sit up, with assistance, for a little while. He's getting stronger.
  6. Prepared some gifts.
  7. Took more Tylenol and Sudafed for this cold that just won't quit.
  8. Lit the menorah for the first night of Hanukkah! Benny enjoyed it. 
8 Things I Am Looking Forward To
  1. Christmas.
  2. Zachary sitting up, crawling, and walking.
  3. Benny mowing the lawn.
  4. Windows 7.
  5. SharePoint 14.
  6. The new PKI module.
  7. A vacation.
  8. Retirement.
8 Things I Wish For
  1. Zachary will sit up, crawl, and walk.
  2. Benny will always be so sweet and silly.
  3. Good friends.
  4. Good neighbors.
  5. Financial security.
  6. A fun car to drive.
  7. A sense of humor.
  8. Sanity.
8 People I Tag To Do This Too!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

FiOS adds HD in a logical way

Over the past few months, Verizon has reorganized our FiOS TV lineup and added new HD channels. Slowly but surely, many of the cable network HD feeds are being filled in. This includes CNN, A&E, FX, USA, TBS, TNT, Smithsonian, and even Disney.

While this is nothing extraordinary, the way they reorganized the channels is something to note. The old channel lineup was between 1 and 1000 and the HD channels existed in the 800 range. The HD channel order beared little resemblence to the standard definion channel lineup that was between 1 and 300.

When they reorganized the channels a few months ago, they kept the SD channels between about 1 and 499 and moved the HD channels to 500 through 999. International channels and the music channels are now between 1000 and 1999.

The neat thing that they did was align the SD channels in the same order as the HD channels. All you need to do to get the HD version of a channel (if it exists) is add 500 to the SD channel number. Of course not all SD channels have HD equivalents, and some HD channels (notably HDNet, HDMovies, and Universal HD) don't have SD equivalents.

For most cases, it's easy to fip around. For example:
  • Local NBC affiliate 4 is 4 for SD and 504 for HD. It used to be 807 for HD.
  • USA SD is still 50 and USA HD is 550.
  • CNN SD is 100 while the HD version is 600.
This is a great step up for usability. If you know the trick and are able to do simple math, it's easy to switch around and see if there's an HD version of a channel. Plus, if there's a non-HD TV in the house you can easily find the SD version of a given channel you're used to watching in HD.

I don't remember seeing any tips from Verizon touting this usability feature. It took me about a day to figure it out just by using the new channel lineup. They might want to highlight this more.

The next step up is to have one channel lineup with the ability to switch a network between SD and HD.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Verizon FiOS IMG 1.6 has arrived!

What timing. We just got a second HD set-to-box delivered yesterday, and today we wake up to find out that the Verizon FiOS Interactive Media Guide 1.6 update has been applied in Fairfax County!

Kudos to Verizon for pushing this out well before the end of the year. It would have been nice to be notified beforehand, but they are usually tight-lipped about these things. C'est la vie.

When I called to order the second HD STB last week, I actually taught the Verizon rep about the upcoming upgrade. She hadn't heard that the multi-room streaming of HD DVR recordings was coming. She checked with her technical support to confirm and we were both pleased with their answer.

So we'll keep FiOS for now. :-)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Vista in the living room

For some reason, I am obsessed with putting computers all around the house. Now that we have an HDTV in the living room, I've revived my quest of an internet-connected experience in the living room.

I've been waiting for a Windows PC to really take on the form factor of the Apple Mac Mini. Sure, there's always the Shuttle and some specialty PC makers that have home theatre PCs (aka HTPC), but they often run into the $1000s and aren't that small.

Then there is the Apple TV, Windows Media Extenders like the Linksys DMA2100, the Roku Netflix box, and others. While these have simple interfaces they are limited in what they can view and download. I'd like something more flexible.

Then Dell comes out with the Studio Hybrid Desktop. This looks very promising. Sort of similar to the line of Sony VAIO HTPCs, but less expensive.

Starting at $499, it comes with HDMI and DVI output and Windows Vista Home Basic (I didn't know anyone still sold that). So upgraded with decent specs and a real version of Vista, it comes to $1122:
  • Vista Home Premium
  • Intel Core 2 Duo T5850
  • 3GB RAM
  • 320GB hard drive
  • Blu Ray/DVD-RW
  • Media Center remote
Unfortunately, unlike the Dell XPS 420 you cannot get an optional digital cable tuner. :-(

I will be keeping an eye on this new development, and waiting for other manufacturers to follow suit.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


I am running in to this same problem about every six months. So far, one of these methods works every time the network connections break again.

To fix certain networking problems in Windows XP:




I have a Lenovo T60p from December 2006. I've re-imaged it two or three times since then, but the last time was a while ago. I've been trying to troubleshoot and fix rather that reformat.

Time for:

a) A reformat with a fresh, clean, basic install of XP Pro
b) A reformat with Vista?
c) MacBook
d) None of the above

Monday, May 19, 2008

My two little guys, together at last

Benny "holding" Zachary

Our second son, Zachary, was in the NICU for two months after his birth due to some complications not associated with his birth.

He finally came home last Thursday. Benjamin was happy to see him again.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Colors in Excel Services

If you use Excel Services inside of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS), you may run into this little issue: Colors appear correctly when files are opened in Excel on your desktop computer, but charts and graphs turn gray and pink and magenta when viewed inside of SharePoint's Excel Services on the same desktop computer.

This is what it's supposed to look like in Excel and SharePoint:

This is what you see in SharePoint:

The reason you may see the drab colors in example 2 is something so simple that you could kick yourself: The Display settings on the server may be set to 8-bit (256 colors). The solution may be as simple as changing the display settings to b 16-bit or ideally 32-bit.

Microsoft throws this in one of it's online help pages, but you may miss it if you blink.


You should be aware that color quality settings vary on a client and server computer. (From the Control Panel, click Display to open the Display Properties dialog box, and then click the Settings tab.) There are three settings:

  • Highest (32 bit, 4 million colors).
  • Medium (16 bit, 32,000 colors).
  • Lowest (8 bit, 256 colors).

The color quality can make a difference in the clarity of the chart, especially if the colors that are used are not distinct enough for the user's current display setting. Because the chart image is created on the server computer, the setting on the server computer can limit the colors displayed in the chart, regardless of the color setting on the client computer.

/End Quote

I'd suggest you use 16-bit or 32-bit for the best results.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

HD on the PC

So I love TV. I don't revolve my life around it like I used to, but I love a good show and relish a good movie.

When we finally took the plunge into the high definition television universe about a year ago we had a slight adjustment to how we watched TV. We had been so used to our ReplayTVs, we rarely ever watched TV shows at their regularly scheduled times.

We didn't get an HD DVR from the cable company right away. We got an HD cable box and tried recording the S-video output to the ReplayTV. It was ok, but HD shows were more like DVD shows. Naturally, an S-video connection is surely sub-par when it comes to anything above VHS quality. So we watched HD shows like Lost, Ugly Betty and American Idol live at their original airing times. With commercials.

When we switched to Verizon FiOS we decided to try their HomeMedia DVR and have been using it ever since. However, as nice as the mid-2007 media guide upgrade has been, it's no ReplayTV and it's surely not as slick as the Tivo interface.

So the alternative to the cable company's DVR, besides the expensive HD Tivo and its service fee, is a PC DVR like Windows Media Center or Snapstream. Fine and dandy, except when you want to record HD content.

Over the air HD tuners are readily available for new and custom build PCs. However, there currently is no easy way to get cable TV-based HD content on a PC. (QAM is supported on some cards, but FiOS doesn't appear to support that very well.)

New PCs with video cards that support the CableCard standard have been trickling out from companies like Dell. However, you need to buy a PC with the special video card already installed--they aren't readily available on the aftermarket.

So what's a person who already has a decent PC but doesn't want to spend $2000 on a new box to do?

Check this out: the new Hauppauge HD PVR that can record HD content from component outputs.

I am excited to see how this develops.