Computers

entrancing

We normally don't let Brooklynn watch too much TV or videos. Even when it's on, her attention span isn't all that long. She'll look at the screen for a little bit, 30 seconds or so, and then wander off to play with a toy or find a snack. And then I played a music video for her on my computer. She watched it five straight times. And absolutely screamed when I took her away. Dogs, bright colors, and music she can bop her head to. In the world of Brooklynn, this is one of the greatest things ever.

Zoned Out

Please excuse the messiness of the desk. It will get cleaned soon, I assure you. Brooklynn's eye level is now just above the desktop and anything within arms reach is starting to go in to the trash can.

The group is Ok Go—I posted one of their last videos here. This one is a keeper as well. Check it out for yourself:

Ok Go - White Knuckles

There is one animal that is not a dog. 50 bonus points to you if you spot it the first time watching.

behind the scenes

Each and every month that we've had Brooklynn around, I've written her a letter. Honestly, I have no idea how long I'll keep it up. I guess as long as I feel that I have something to say, I'll continue to say it. Along with the letter, I also include a few selected photos that either illustrate some point I'm talking about or that were just too good (in my opinion) to pass up. In addition, I also post other photos that were never featured on this site. Sometime during the last month (or perhaps just yesterday), we reached over 1,000 pictures of Brooklynn.

I typically print one or two of these pictures out every month and hang them on the wall of my cubicle at work. I've had several people comment that the photos are really good and a few ask about what type of camera I use and how I get such wonderful pictures.

(Full disclosure: many people walk by my office without commenting on the pictures, so perhaps most of my co-workers think the pictures are horrible and subscribe to the "If you can't say something nice..." policy.)

I tell them that I take lots of pictures, choose the good ones, and do a little post-processing on the computer.

All of these are true. I can't make the claim of every day anymore, but we have some sort of photo of Brooklynn on all but a handful of days in her life. I don't get a "good" picture everyday. She's at the age where she's too young to understand the concept of posing and sitting still for a picture but she's old enough to want any thing electronic that we might be holding. This leads to a lot of me backpedaling while trying to keep her in frame and in focus. I've also ended up with more than a few fingerprints on my lenses over the past months since walking has come in to vogue.

I typically end up with 40 to 60 pictures up on the web in any given month. This usually equates to between 10 and 20 percent of the pictures I actually take. There are a fair number that are poorly lit, out-of-focus, or more than a little unflattering. I'm not a pro photographer and I don't work in a strictly controlled studio. Luckily, digital cameras have changed the world for home photography. Want to take 100 pictures of your kid sitting on the steps in one afternoon? Go for it. No film. No waiting for development time. No paying for doubles and then wondering what the pictures that you didn't get back looked like.

So, I take lots of pictures and try to pick the best ones. And then I play with color, exposure, and cropping on the computer. I've changed my workflow a little over the years moving away from Photoshop and image editing programs and more toward software geared specifically to photographers. I currently use Lightroom, and when you see black and white or odd coloring, it's because I thought it looked good. Even just a simple bump in contrast and a small vignette makes photos "pop" a little.

It takes me couple hours to run through a month worth of photos, do my processing, title, and upload them. Being able to look back to photos whenever I want to makes it all worth it. Hopefully you like it too.

And once in a while, I get a little help with the photography. Most of the time, when you see Brooklynn smiling and looking just off to the side of the camera, it means that Rhiannon was standing right over my shoulder to get her attention. Sometimes, she even picks up the camera, and often, these are my favorite pictures.

With Dad

to TV or not TV, that is the question

Continuing on my discussion of doing what is “right” for the baby in our household: TV. Screen Time. Digital Media Consumption. Cell Phones. Twitter. Heck, personal websites.

Namely, how much technology is enough technology, and how much screen time is too much screen time for a child.

Everything I’ve ever read on the subject of screen time seems to refer back to some American Association of Pediatrics (and no, I have never looked up the exact study or recommendation that is all too often referenced). It states that for kids under 2, screen time should be limited to a minimum.

Period.

No maximum of XXX hours per day or week, no mention of eating dinner in an Applebee’s and having 13 TVs playing sports going. No mention of the 100-inch screen in your home theater being any worse than the 4” screen on your iPhone, even if they both play same the cartoons.

I take that to mean that the AAP feels that no amount of screen time is appropriate. That time should be spent nurturing your child with enriching activities, like playing with old school wooden blocks and reading Mother Goose nursery rhymes and possible having a discussion on the electromagnetic properties of inert gases and why ionization of said gases and subsequent photon emission is so vital in the working of compact florescent lightbulbs. (Not that I would actually talk about that last one with a one year old. That would be ludicrous.)

Well, I have news for the AAP. We have a TV in our house and we even have it on from time to time. Sometimes Brooklynn is around. We don’t watch entire half-hour shows with her, nor do we ever let the TV act as a pseudo-babysitter, as in, hey look at the flashing colorful screen!

She likes football (bright colors?) and short bits of cartoons with songs, but mostly, her attention span doesn’t last longer than a few minutes at any one time and she wanders off to do something else. We don’t encourage her to sit and watch anything and we do all of our movie watching when she is asleep.

We don’t have cable or satellite television, and considering we watch maybe around 5 hours of live TV each week, it doesn’t seem like we are missing much. We do have an internet connection and both Rhiannon and I spend a fair amount of time in front a computer screen.

Brooklynn loves our computers. I showed her a few music videos on YouTube a few days ago, and she watched and danced her little head-bopping dance along with them. Is this screen time? I would say yes. But really, she just loves our computers because she wants to bang on the keyboards. As in, BANG, how long until I permanently damage your computer, Dad?

I guess we follow the AAP guidelines more out of lack of opportunity than any real conscious effort. If we notice Brooklynn zoning out in front of the TV, that means it’s time to turn it off and do something else. And if we leave her in front of computer for too long, something bad will happen to that computer.

Good parenting by default. Although, if there were still Saturday morning cartoons like when I was growing up, I might be right there watching them with her.

things are different

Yes, you're still at the right site.  I just got a little tired of the old version and did a little updating. It has taken a little work in the background to get everything ready, and I'm sure I'll still find small glitches here and there to work out.  If you see anything badly broken, let me know.

-The Management

technical support is completed

So...  if you checked in earlier today and say my little message about me screwing stuff up on the back end of the site here - I think it's fixed. If you didn't see it, well, nothing went wrong in the first place. (But on the off chance it did, shoot me an email and let me know what errors you found).  I'd like to say the site should be a little faster than it has been in the future.  I sure seems to be from my end, and that's really what prompted some of the upgrades and changes I made that caused the mistake to begin with.

If you are wondering, I switched hosting providers, optimized my databases, did a fresh install, and upgraded the blog software on the backend.

Yeah, I didn't think you wanted to know either.

Please Standby

If the site is really slow for you, it's not you. It's not me either (I don't think), but that's beside the point. I'm working on it.

Update: I think the problem may be solved for the most part. The site should be loading a little faster now.

Slow Change Is Better Than No Change

There are going to be a few changes coming to this site soon. The pages have looked the same for too long now, and, frankly, I’m a little tired of staring at it while attempting to think of how I could make fun of Rhiannon on any particular day. To kick start this new action, perhaps you have tried to look at the photos link sometime in the past 9 months and realized that I haven’t done anything with it. Well, I finally did.

It isn’t a gallery with groups of photos organized very well. Rather, it is more of a collection of daily photos. Well, as of right now, it is a collection of one daily photo. Hopefully I can stay with it for at least a week. I hear that’s about how long most New Year’s resolutions last anyway.

I may not post on the main site every single day (and I don’t already, so that’s nothing new), but I will do my best to have a different photo up every single morning.

Check it out.

We Could All Use A Little More Sleep

If you’re reading this right now, I will assume you are using a computer. This is good. I like computers. I hope that you like computers too. What do you do with your computer after you leave? Do you shut it off? Do you leave it run all the time (like I do)? I’m not along – many people let their computers on all the time. Many people who run some version of Microsoft Windows have the option of enabling power saving functions but don’t.

If everyone would make the computer sleep when not in use, we would save enough energy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (that cause global warming) by about the amount that a small country (like Ireland) puts out every year. (See this article for more information.)

Wow. I might think about this in the future.

Also, we considering we have two computers that we leave on all the time, it should free up a little more money to handover to big retailers this holiday season (see yesterday’s topic).

Sure It Looks Good, But Can It Cook Too?

Gone are the days when a little boy could pop the head off of a little girl's Barbie doll to make her cry. Now, some of them are made to have the head come off, revealing an amazingly clever (or amazingly stupid) USB drive. barbie_usb.jpg

Although a regular one would be a whole lot smaller, now you can see little girls cry when a parent pops the head off of a Barbie and sticks the body into the computer.

For what it's worth, this seems about as effective as yesterday's voting procedure where we live. Maybe paper wasn't so bad after all.

This Entry Typed Entirely In Dvorak

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of how many, many years ago, typists were too fast for the old-style keyboards, so they made the letter arrangement inefficient to slow people down. It’s a good story. It’s not entirely true. In 1868, Christopher (good name) Sholes filed a patent for a brand new futuristic type machine that would revolutionize the world. It was called the typewriter. The keys were originally in alphabetic order. The original bars swung upward when a key was pressed and used gravity to return (think an action like a grand piano). If two keys next to each other were pressed in rapid succession, the bars would jam (this part of the legend is true).

After working with a few collaborators and finding common letter pairs, or digraphs (don’t say I’ve never had anything educational on this site), Sholes came up with a completely random arrangement of letters made to maximize the separation of digraphs.

Now, here is where the legend doesn’t quite hold up – Sholes did this work in order to come up with a working prototype of his invention. The new key arrangement didn’t completely eliminate the jams, but it greatly reduced them. The legend is that he did it to slow down typists – there were no typists to slow down as the typewriter was still a prototype in his garage, or horse stall, or wherever guys went to get away from their wives for a while back then.

Sholes was an inventor – not a business man, so after a few years, he sold his rights to one of the collaborators, James Densmore. Densmore promptly went to Remington and convinced them to start mass production in 1873.

The typewriter was set up in such a way that you couldn’t actually see what you were typing as you typed it. It didn’t sell very well. (Imagine typing a page of text on your computer, hitting print, and then looking at that page to see if you made any mistakes. Go back and retype the whole thing if you did. I wouldn’t have bought one either. (Well, maybe I would have, because I’m a nerd who likes technology like that, but I hope you wouldn’t have bought one.))

In 1878, the Remington Number Two was created for public use. It had springs that snapped the bars back much quicker than the original and it used the method we all think of when we imagine an old typewriter – you could actually see the text as you typed it.

It was a hit.

Sholes came back with a better keyboard layout, since the reason he originally designed the QWERTY layout was to separate all the digraphs. Remington had no desire to change something that was selling so well. It became ingrained in all Americans learning to type that this was how the keys should be, just because that’s how they are.

Enter Dr. Dvorak – through real scientific research, the details of which I will spare you (and avoid having to type long stretches of boring material), he devised an optimized layout of keys. It increased accuracy and efficiency in typing. So who wanted to change? The typewriter manufacturers were making plenty of money, thank you. The government? Well, when was the last time you associated our government with accurate and efficient?

I thought so.

Here is the Dvorak layout.

Here is how to switch your computer to use Dvorak.

I printed out a copy of the key arrangement and used that to type this article. It’s a little challenging.

But on the bright side – how great a practical joke will it be to switch a friends a computer and watch them type gibberish because none of the keys output the expected letters.

Sorry for the nerd interruption. I now return you to your regularly scheduled glimpse into Chris and Rhiannon’s boring existence.

As Promised (For Once)

I give you the new photo albums. Also, see the new link on the left under pages. Now all we have to do is actually take some pictures once in a while. Problems that I already know about and will be addressed: -There is no link back to this main site (just type in the address for now...) -Yes, the folders with no pictures on them are ugly -No, there aren't comments on everything -No, not all the pictures are very good -No, you can't download big versions even though there is a link to do just that (so don't try)

Other than that, what do you think?

The Winds Of Change

It’s official. I’m moving my hosting from my own server to a company. Along with my reasons I talked about earlier, I also realized that recently keeping the site up has been more work than I ever wanted it to be, and I want to start over with some new software and design. As much as I’m sure you don’t like hearing about computer stuff all the time, I don’t like having to write about it all the time.

When writing and keeping up with stuff becomes work, it isn’t fun. The funny was fun. So with a little work and some luck this weekend, the transfer should be pretty painless. However, consider yourself warned – if the site disappears for a short amount of time, you’ll know why.

And after that, it will be less with the serious about computer-talky like of late and more with the funny.

Signs We Grew Up In The Computer Age

I came back from lifting weights yesterday and had this conversation with Rhiannon: “How was lifting?” “Good. Someone actually opened windows in the weight room so it was nice and cool.” “How does opening Windows affect…? Oh, real windows.” “Uh, yeah. What else would I have meant?” “Microsoft Windows.” “Oh, that makes sense.”

I Love Computers… Really, I Do

For those of you out there who actually try and read this site on a regular basis, you may have noticed a little downtime over the pass few weeks. I’m frustrated right along with you. From my video card going out to my ISP changing my service and IP address to my local router reassigning my local IPs… suffice it to say it hasn’t been the best situation all around and I apologize for the interruptions.

I’m considering actually forking over my own hard earned money and paying someone else to host this site. This would have a couple benefits for the poeple who view the site:

1) If the power goes out in the apartment, the website does not dissapear. This is my worry when I’m away for a few days and can’t physically start the computer again if something happens. 2) The host I’m looking at provides what seems like a decent image display package - Rhiannon and I try to take quite a few pictures, so hopefully I would have a better system than I do now to allow you to look at some of them. (My current system is I put them on my local computer and think, “Gee, I should put some of these on our site so people can look at them.” I admit, it isn’t the best system.) 3) When I get up in the morning and realize that something has gone wrong with my computer (which outside of these recent problems has run 24/7 for about a year now), I won’t spend all day at work trying to think of what I can do and I can even update the site from Rhiannon’s computer. 4) If I ever do experience another hard drive crash, I won’t lose everything. (This is probably my biggest reason for considering hosting service. Of course I would like to set up my computer with a dual-hard drive backup, but chances of that aren’t the greatest.) 5) Finally, I’ve learned a lot about how the software I use works and I would like to rebuild and incorporate some changes. This would be a weekend project, but ultimately doable with proper motivation.

If I do this in the near future, I’ll let you know and do my best to make the switch as seemless as possible.

Thanks for reading, and remember to floss daily. (I do.) -Chris

Sometimes The Computers, They Do Not Like Me

In case anyone actually tried visiting the site sometime between early Friday morning and yesterday afternoon, you might have noticed as far as the Internet was concerned – this site did not exist. It was like our site told the Internet that it thought Taco Bell was completely appropriate for Valentine’s Day and the internet broke up with our site. (If you didn’t visit the website and see its nonexistence, then… visit more often. And don’t worry about it, everything is ok now, thanks for caring.)

I walked into the office on Friday morning and was greeted by the infamous “Blue Screen of Death”. And it said a driver or device was stuck in an infinite loop and microsoft hates you because you badmouthed Windows Service Pack 2 when it came out. So I restarted and let it be, and that Mother Mary doesn’t know what she’s talking about because letting it be didn’t help anything. Several more screens of death later, I figured out it wasn’t the driver. It was a video card gone bad.

And after losing a hard drive full of data last spring around college finals time and having the same hard drive (you’d think I’d learn) try and hijack the computer last fall, I didn’t think it was all that important to fix right away. I gave it day to sit and think about what it had done.

Sunday morning, I turned the computer back on and ol’ Blue Screen looked back at me again and said, “Go directly to Blue Screen, Do Not Run Through Bios, Do Not Start in Safe Mode,” and I thought that was a good indicator I needed to go get a new video card.

So I did. I opened the box to start installing it, and then - I decided to read the instructions.

I will paraphrase: “Warning!!! Do NOT attempt to replace your defective video card with this beautiful working model without first uninstalling your old drivers. Doing so will simultaneously void the remaining warranty on any electronic device in your house and rip all the ‘Do Not Remove’ tags off the pillows, mattresses and couches within a 50 foot radius.” Considering I couldn’t actually start my computer, I could tell that this was not going to be a pleasant encounter.

Two hours, several restarts, and uncounted threats of physical damage later, the computer relented and agreed to run peacefully for the time being. And thus, our website exists again.

I had some really witty and interesting to write about on Friday too.

I didn’t write it down and now I forgot – I apologize to anyone looking for anything good here and finding a bunch of talk about computers instead. It had better not happen again.

The Computer Gods Chuckled

And said seriously, start backing up your data. This past Friday night I had a bit of a scare on the computing front. I was working on uploading a file to an FTP site when the computer locked up. Completely froze – no CTRL+ALT+DEL was going to cure this. Fine – I did the dreaded cold restart. Computer off. Wait 20 seconds. Computer on, exit room and get a drink of water. When I came back in, everything seemed fine. I opened the ftp client and resumed my file transfer.

10 seconds into the transfer – complete computer lock up again. Another cold restart. My stomach does kind of a half turn and inquires if this is a situation that will require its services of getting worked up. I said check back in a few.

We repeated this dance several times, each time the start up procedure would become shorter and shorter. The stomach was going full steam. Rhiannon was sleeping blissfully unaware of the entire situation on the couch. And I flashed back to last spring when I lost my hard drive. 3 days before finals in my last semester of college.

I turned off the computer one final time, shut down myself, and went to bed. I awoke in the morning to a new beginning. It snowed over night, everything outside looked shiny and new, and surely the previous night was all just a bad misunderstanding.

No. The computer, it still did not like me. As bad as the night before was for thinking about losing everything on my computer (read: the majority of my life), the harsh light of day was no better. I left the computer to sit and think about what it had done and retired back to bed. When Rhiannon woke up, I told her the situation. And told her that if it happened, we would lose all of our pictures, website, music, videos, and programs. No big deal really. Who needed those picture from the honeymoon anyway, right dear?

I was informed in no uncertain terms that I was to go remedy whatever offense I committed to warrant the computer being mean to us or both the computer and I would soon find ourselves with a new residence, one involving more snow on the floor and a lack of a roof above us.

So I went back to the computer to beg forgiveness – and it obliged, just when I had my assortment of sacrificial microchips and old floppy disks all ready, too. There it was, running happily away, computer those background ones and zeros and doing whatever it is that computers do when they aren’t being used. I wiggled the mouse and the cursor moved on the screen. No recoil, no lock-up. And I didn’t touch the computer anymore. I went straight to Rhiannon’s computer and began the great Data Dump of ’05. Everything went on to her hard drive via our home network. And when I went to get a few files from the old hard drive – nothing. It wasn’t there.

I approached my computer. Check the C drive (my main drive is F), nothing. The drive is unformatted. Would I like to format? This is the same drive that crashed last spring. This is the same drive that is headed for a new snowy home with a distinct lack of roofing overhead. My good hard drive and I don’t need to associate with its kind anymore. Not when I have a wife who won’t hesitate to kick us out as well should we mess up again.

All praise be to the computer gods. I’m working on that whole backup thing too. Sacraficial microchips anyone?

Categories?!?

So the categories don’t link correctly right now. I’ll look at it more when I get home. Edit - 4:32 pm

So there was an error in the code that assigns categories. Apparently WordPress and PHP5 had a little dissagreement. I have the problem resolved now thanks to the WordPress Support pages. Leaving this post here is more for my own records since I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who even saw it when it wasn’t working.