san fran trip recap

conference badges

Wanted to say that I’m back in NYC and that the San Francisco trip was a big success.

It felt like five trips in one, which it was. I attended two conferences, the Future of Web Apps ’06 and BEA World. We camped and hiked in Big Sur — yes, we packed a suitcase with sleeping bags and a tent. We hit up wine country for about an hour near sunset, found a sweet looking villa style place off the main road, did the three Pinot sampler, in-and-out. Oh and speaking of In-and-Out, we definitely did that. I had lunch with Chrissy from There is a Small Blog Here.

We haven’t launch our new product yet, but we are ramping up big-time. In fact we are looking for full time developers and designers now. I’ll post full job listings later, but if you are interested in getting involved do let me know.

Emily has some pictures up on her Experience site, and when I have a spare minute at home I’ll process some RAW images and post them on Flickr.

<technical note>I have all kinds of FolderShare action happening between work and home, but since Emily’s Canon 5D shoots ~12 megabyte RAW images and she takes a lot of them, I don’t sync those folders directly. I have to wait until she goes through them and, does and edit and saves them as jpegs. I then manually sync the RAW photos later using DVDRs or my iPod’s HD as a shuttle. This works fine for most things, but it does mean that I don’t get to blog images as quickly or fully as I’d like when the trip is done. Need that FiOS — get on it Verizon.

Hey, I just figured out one really nice option for this besides brute force uploading. The new Picassa 2.5 has a remote desktop low-color mode and supports RAW images, so I can browse quickly using that and make my blog selections. </technical note>

This was taken on this beach. [Google Maps satellite image]



This corporate issue laptop of mine is infuriating me on this west coast trip. On battery it operates at 0.8 gHz. There is only 384 MB of memory. I get less than an hour of battery life and startup time is nearly five minutes.

My capacity for complaining is tempered by the fact that I am a beta user for the corporate EVDO network.

This thing runs on Sprint’s data network and the coverage has been excellent when around urban areas and decent in other places. I’ve gotten pretty good at optimizing my usage on this crappy laptop anyway, so along with that I’m not too dependent on high speed net access.

Last week’s conference WiFi was pathetic, this week’s conference WiFi is decent, but spotty. I am the guy everyone around me asks “hey man, is your wireless working?”

BTW, if you have one of these things, the position of the antenna has exactly zero impact on the signal strength as far as I can tell and just seems to be a device meant to meant to make the user feel like they are really really wireless.



My favorite political writer today is Matthew Yglesias.

He had been writing three separate blogs, one on TPM Cafe, one on TAPPED, and a personal one. He just moved to a single, relaunched You can subscribe here:

This post is a public callout and request for Matt to please, please bring back the full-text RSS feed.


new old toys

tube amp

Big thanks to my brother Tom for extended-loaning me a tube amp and pre-amp to compliment my superb already on-loan Advent 300 and 70’s vintage Infinity speakers (unsure of the model number on those). The only thing I know about these new pieces is that they are hand made by a small company called Nobis Technologies from Wisconsin, that they are very heavy, put out serious heat and they sound and look fantastic. (note on the picture, the bottom right is the back of the pre-amp, the other three are just different angles of the amp with a night version showing how the tubes glow)


Corey’s low-tech laptop purchasing guide(Sept 2006)

I’ve done two of these for co-workers in the last few weeks, so I figured it might be of some use to someone out there.

Note, this is meant for a non-technical audience on a budget. YMMV


Make: I personally have the most experience with Dells, but they do seem to have had a up-and-down couple of years. I’m still pretty comfortable recommending them though. One of the factors I use when buying a notebook is driver support 2-3 years down the line, and in this metric I like Dell. If you go with Dell, consider going to the “small business” section and choosing a Latitude model. These are the ones they sell to big companies in large batches and I think they tend to be more reliable and feature less bloated software standard. IBM/Lenovo clearly has great build quality and are big in the corporate world. As for Sony, my brother has one of the carbon-fiber SZ models and is happy with it.

CPU: The top choice here is the just released, brand-new Core Duo 2, but the Core Duo is a fine choice, although it draws slightly more power which means lower battery life. Don’t mess around with anything else here. The speed of the actual chip doesn’t matter as much as the type, just pick the one in the middle, so if they offer 1.66, 1.88, 2.0, get the 1.88. And remember these don’t compare to desktop chip speeds at all.

Memory: 1GB minimum. More is always better, just try to find the price point where it makes sense.

Hard drive: I don’t personally think you need much more than 60 Gig on the main drive. If you are doing a lot with movies or music or something, get an external USB drive. The key factor is speed. Don’t buy something unless you can confirm the drive is at least 5400 RPM. 7200 is best, but anything lower than 5400 is unacceptable.

Operating System: XP Home should be fine. The only differences for Professional are a couple of things like ability to remote desktop into it, join a corporate domain. If possible see if you can get a coupon for Vista when it is released.

Screen: I would look for screen resolution at around 1280×1024, every manufacturer calls these different things like WXGA+, but skip that and look for the numbers. Size makes a big difference in the total size and weight of the laptop. If you aren’t ever going to travel with it, go big, but otherwise, 14.1 seems to be a decent compromise between size and portability. Remember you don’t compare LCDs and CRT (the old kind) directly – a 19” CRT = 17” LCD (take off about two inches).

Video card: Notebooks come with two types, motherboard based Intel chips or add-in Nvidia or ATI cards. While this isn’t a big concern today (if you aren’t playing games), it will matter when Vista is released because Vista uses the graphics card to render the screen. I would choose a model with the ATI or Nvidia chips.

Optical drive: DVDRW drives are pretty standard these days, but I don’t make many DVDs, I do make CDRs though so if it were me, I’d probably go with the CD-RW/DVD.

Wireless LAN (802.11): Get the basic choice, you just need 802.11 b/g.

Mobile broadband: This is different than Wifi and requires a contract from a cell phone company, usually in the $80 a month range. Obviously this is really cool, but just know what it involves.

Bluetooth: This is a short range wireless protocol you can use to connect things like printers, headsets, etc. I don’t have any Bluetooth devices so I wouldn’t need this. If you don’t, you probably don’t either.

I just priced a Dell Latitude D620 with roughly these specs online and it came out to be $1459, which sounds about right.


service dependability

I started out hosting this blog at home using my cable modem, Linksys router and Dns2go. Because cable modems have very low upstream bandwidth I decided to host all static content, images mostly, on a third party site. I found a low-cost provider in J White Computers, Inc. I needed something simple with FTP access and they had it.

Now that I have real hosting I don’t need it anymore, but it was working fine; I was happy with the setup, no complaints.

Except for this:

After six years of service, this site will cease to exist as of September 30, 2006 8:00 PM Eastern Time

Ouch. I have 762 images hosted there and I have thirty days to move them or else suffer very many red x’s on older links. So what I have done so far is download the complete set of images. I’m using Beyond Compare for this, so I don’t have to commit to moving everything at once and I can use a visual sync to make surely sure I’ve got everything. Next I’ll be uploading them to my real servers and doing some search and replace through the database and editing my blog skins.

The challenge is that I have two web servers that are doing load balancing. So I need to keep those two servers in sync. I am going to attempt to use FolderShare for this part, since that is already configured for some other folders. Windows Live Writer and Subtext both support newMediaObject in the MetaWeblog API so I can skip the FTP this time.

The moral of this story is just to assume that your online service provider will eventually a) die b) get sold to some unsavory conglomerate c) suffer prolonged outages. If you go in with that attitude from the beginning you can be saved the heart wrench later on.

So keep copies of those Gmails, the images in Flickr (use little syncr) and your bookmarks on a disk somewhere. J-I-C.


beam camp

I spent five days at Beam Camp in New Hampshire at lake Winnepesaki last week. The camp is just in its second year — I was there for the first year as well. It is a bit hard to describe, but basically it is an art-focused camp for kids from around 6-15 (?), where each summer there is a major, common, project for the campers and adults to work on, plus the whole range of regular camp stuff. This year’s project was the creation of seven art-vehicles, floats of a sort, which were paraded for the local townspeople and parents on the last day of camp. My contributions came at the very end so really I just helped move them around, assisted Emily with her photo project, and taught some tennis.

If you’ve got kids and are looking for something a little different next year, check them out: