Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Computer tool here

In a further degradation of the line between professional website and comedy website, I'm posting a computer tool here.

The main problem with computer use is you're staring into a lightbulb the whole time you use it. It's bad in the day, causing eye-strain and sometimes headaches.
At night it's the WORST!
White is a glaring sheet of light pounding your eyeballs into submission. If you have an idea in the middle of the night, flipping on the computer to write it down will burn your retinas out.
Any time after dark really, looking to write anything down is going to result in some serious glare.
For a while, my solution was to use the program Dark Room as a no-frills text editor. It blacks out the screen so the light's not too bad. With some tweaks to the settings you can set it up for minimal eye glare.

What if you have to research something though? Websites will get ya.

Enter Nocturne. It's an awesome night-time mode for the mac. Problem is I'm mostly on a PC.
I looked for a while and couldn't find anything until . . . . f.lux!!

You set this up and unless you're working with something that requires true color (photo editing's an example) your monitor's colors will warm whenever the sun goes down, resulting in a much more pleasant computing experience at night.

I've been using it for a few months, it's fantastic. Highly recommended.
They even have it for the Mac; I'd probably bounce between it and Nocturne and decide which one I'd want to use.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pretentious fuckery

"I think Assassin's Creed 2 is more meaningful if you've actually walked around Venice and Florence."
There's so many things wrong with that statement above, yet so many things right.
First off, it's true to some extent - looking at the skyline from the Duomo's roof, and seeing Michelangelo's Chapel when the facade was still there - it's pretty sweet. Also, you're an assassin and stab people in the face.
Which is also cool.
If you haven't been to Venice or Florence, then it's just another fictional video game landscape. Just a pretty obstacle course to run around in.

I marvelled at it. AC2 has been out for a while now, I just picked it up for $30 because I was slightly buzzed and forgot I wasn't buying it because of the DRM. You've won this round, alcohol.
And it is marvelous.
I yelled for my wife to come into the room when I had gotten to St Mark's Place in Venice, and climbed up one of the buildings opposite the Doge's palace, turned around and looked over the plaza.
Andrea: "Wow, it really is Venice."
Me: "Yeah, it's really amazing."
"You should run around the corner to where you bought the cane when we were there in real life," she says, laughing as she walks away.
I love her and hate her all at once.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


"The first thing we'd like you to do is fix our printer. It doesn't even turn on."

My mother-in-law over Christmas break. They've recently settled down in Arizona and my presence was requested to get their tech up and running, starting with the printer.

The printer was easy. They hadn't plugged the power cord into the machine or the surge suppressor. It was also out of ink. Problem #1 solved.

Problem #2 was tougher. We had to get her father a cell phone. While I was at it, I had to see about fixing the problem with their cell phone bill. This is tougher because my father-in-law is tough as nails.
He's generous until he thinks you're trying to screw him, and then he wants you dead.

Unfortunately, screwing you is the cell-phone industry business model. The whole process of selecting a variety of calling plan options are really just trying to get as comfortable as you can get for the no-lube rogering the company's going to give you for the length of the two year contract they saddle you with.
Your goal is to make it as comfortable as possible while minimizing the bleeding.

Example: Never, ever, ever, try and guess exactly how many minutes the plan needs. Always go over by a comfortable padding, because that'll probably cost you three bucks a month. If you go over by twenty minutes, though, they're probably going to break your legs.

For some reason, my father-in-law finds this distasteful. The part that makes it funny is he thinks the guy in the store can do something about it. And also sell him a new phone. For two hours, my father in law gets this guy to explain the different possible plan options. Every time the poor bastard salesguy stops to breathe, my father in law implies he's a filthy crook trying to take his money.

Eventually we solve his billing problem ("You can't get a 300 minute plan and use 600 minutes or you'll have a billing problem"), get him and his wife set up on a sensible minutes plan, and buy the cheapest phone in the store.
Merry Christmas, sales guy, don't spend the commission all in one place.

I also set up an entertainment center for them. Like all modern televisions, there are input channels - one for the DVD, one for the cable, one for the Playstation 3, etc.
This completely blew their minds, and I realized if I got on the plane without giving them some sort of magical remote, they would disable the TV within the week.
I bought and programmed a Harmony One remote. (great product, by the way) That's when I learned this was going to be harder than it looked.
"How do I make the DVD work?"
"Press the play button."
"Which one's the play button?"
"The one with the universal symbol for play."
A blank stare.
"The big triangle pointing to the right."

Two days later, they had it, and were jumping between cable and the DVD player with few bumps. They learned to use the "Help" button on the remote and all was well with the world. The DVD player sparked a new complaint about "having to buy DVDs" which inspired us to teach them Netflix.

My wife and I laughed and laughed about that and decided we'd just manage a queue for them and it would be like magic. We paid for the first year, and my wife is throwing movies in the queue they'd like.

It's been a couple of weeks, and we should have known something was wrong with the first sideways complaint from my father-in-law: "We're watching too much TV these days."

They went through so many movies, Netflix has started throttling them.

Turns out, the only model they have for borrowing movies is VCR tape rentals. They've been watching every movie right away to avoid late fees. Sometimes that's 4 hours a day.

I still haven't stopped laughing. We're kind-hearted souls so we explained that they can keep the movies for as long as they want without incurring additional fees.

I'm terrified what's going to lose me in 30-35 years.
(queue I'm Losing My Edge, LCD Soundsystem)