Thursday, April 16, 2009

No Excuse

I went from being inordinately proud of my alma mater after they won another national championship to embarrassed to have my name associated with them in barely more than a week. Tom Tancredo is an idiot. The more he talks, the more it becomes obvious that he's an idiot. And a racist. And a xenophobe. That does not mean that he doesn't have a right to speak at UNC. Attend his speech and boo if you'd like. Hold up a sign outside or in the back that doesn't obstruct anyone's view. But the actions by a surprisingly large number of protesters Tuesday night at Bingham Hall were inexcusable (and illegal), regardless of who was speaking. I am ashamed.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Spent Saturday night at an almost empty Cat's Cradle, enjoying three quite different but very good bands. Sally Spring and the Ted Lyons Experience wasn't generally my cup of tea, but the strong voice talent, some good songwriting and the interesting guitar style made for a really nice set. The Jon Shain Trio was also quite good, especially when they avoided dipping too much into cutesy Michael Franks territory. Again, some good instrumental chops and some really nice songwriting made for an enjoyable set. The headliner was of course Katherine Whalen and Will Dawson of Squirrel Nut Zippers fame and a band that at one point consisted of six guitars (if you include the bass guitar and the pedal steel) and a drummer - the instrumentation changed from song to song with Katherine taking a few good turns on the banjo. It was a shame that there weren't more people there (I know it was Easter weekend) and even more of a shame that a number of folks that were apparently just there for Jon Shain left after only a couple of songs. Lucky is definitely worth a listen. Don't expect SNZ - as she has on her solo CDs, Whalen moves on to new material and new styles but it's all good.


Monday, April 13, 2009

New Toy - HTPC

Spent a good bit of Sunday afternoon hooking up a new home theater PC - so far, so good. Specs are as follows:

- HP Pavilion Slimline s3750t PC
- Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium with Service Pack 1 (64-bit)
- Intel(R) Core(TM) 2 Duo processor E7500 [2.93GHz]
- 4GB DDR2-800MHz SDRAM [2x2048]
- 640GB 7200 rpm SATA 3Gb/s hard drive
- 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4350 & TV Tuner [DVI, HDMI, VGA adapter]
- Blu-ray player & Lightscribe SuperMulti DVD burner
- Wireless-G LAN card
- 15-in-1 memory card reader, 2 USB, headphone port
- Integrated 5.1 channel sound with front audio ports
- HP wireless keyboard and HP wireless optical mouse

An 802.11N card would of course have been preferable but it wasn't an option with this build.

The first steps after initial boot were to install Avast! A/V, ZoneAlarm firewall, Irfanview, Winamp, Deepburner and MediaMonkey. Since we're not planning to use this box for general web-surfing, I may not bother with FireFox or another browser but I will want to go ahead and upgrade to IE8 soon. The wireless access point is upstairs in my home office and so far I seem to be getting adequate throughput for Hulu, although Youtube is stopping to buffer a bit. The Iron Man Blu-Ray is working fine with the software provided from H-P but I fully expect to run into disks that won't play so any suggestions on the best Blu-Ray player software would be most appreciated. I've got my MP3 collection on the workstation in the office upstairs shared out to the new box with high-def audio out to the home theater receiver, so we have tuneage. And I've tested out both analog and digital stations from a straight coax cable TV feed from the wall and that looks good as well - haven't tried recording or any other DVR functions yet. I also haven't checked to see what I can get (if anything) coming through the digital cable box - I'll keep you posted as I continue to set things up. There are a bunch of little things I haven't done yet, like setting up the remote control, rewiring other parts of the HT set-up as I've swapped around a couple of other components, etc. The goal is to make this as complete a system as possible while making it relatively straightforward to use.

So my checklist to date is:
o Blu-Ray player - check (need to try more disks)
o Music Jukebox - check
o Internet streaming TV - check (loves me some Hulu!!)
o DVR - in progress (tried recording "Big Bang Theory" and "How I Met Your Mother" tonight)

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