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Back to work

lapcam.jpgPlay time is over: time to get back to work because my vacation’s technically done. I say “technically” because I’m still here in Michigan, and it feels like I’m still on vacation. As a telecommuter, work seems to go easier when you’re in a new place. I like working in Dad & Caryl’s kitchen because it’s a bright, open space with lots of windows.

Being up here near the water has made me think a lot about where I want to live. I don’t want to move up here, of course – the winters are too rough – but I keep asking myself if I’m sure I don’t want to live in Galveston. Home prices aren’t bad down there – we could get a nice 2 bedroom place on the water with a dock, and I could even get a boat. That’s mesmerizing. It’s one of those decisions that would affect the rest of my life: be a city dweller who hangs out at coffee shops, or be a beach bum who sails and fishes? Erika (who reads this blog) would be horrified to hear me even thinking about that, but in the interest of honesty, there it is. She’d never stand for the beach life, though. She doesn’t like Jimmy Buffett, for starters.

Setting up Dad & Caryl’s speakers

Dad and Caryl are in the process of building an addition to their house. Since Caryl got him a pair of Yamaha speakers for his new workshop, I spent the morning wiring in a new speaker switch so that they can play music on the patio, in the basement, in the workshop, and in the garage. I’ll probably wire the upstairs garage apartment as well, since the drywall isn’t up yet.

As I work with their house, I’m getting a lot of ideas for my own house. Erika and I have a floorplan picked out, and originally I discarded the “speaker wiring” upgrades. I didn’t think it was worth $50-$60 per room to play music through the entire house. Now, though, I’m reconsidering, and maybe it’d be nice for the kitchen and the master bedroom.

I’ve also done a lot of looking at using used I-Openers in the kitchen and loft as a way of controlling the music. I could run something like NetJuke on my home server and stream audio to the stereo. It’d be more elegant than the Tivo Home Media Option, which is easy to use but requires a Tivo anywhere that you want to control the music.

I’m envisioning a web-based home control system that controls X10 appliances, streams music, shows how many emails you have, and maybe even how many voicemails you have (if you use a voice modem as your answering machine.) I bet somebody’s got one built out there, but Freshmeat.net is only showing Perl and PHP based ones, neither of which particularly interest me. If I’m going to use open source stuff, I prefer it to be in a language I already know, so that I can break^H^H^Himprove it. But hey, I’m writing this in MovableType, which I don’t know much about, and I’m only using it because it seems to be the best blogging solution out there.

So with that said, the most interesting open-source home automation program seems to be Mister House. It integrates with an amazing amount of stuff, including caller ID, X10, Outlook, lcdproc, instant messaging, thermostats, and more.

Microsoft and IE versions

There’s been a lot of talk lately around Microsoft’s subtle hints that Internet Explorer will no longer be available in “standalone” versions after IE6 SP1. In a nutshell, MS is saying that there won’t be a standalone Internet Explorer 7.

So why are they doing it? More revenue. Browser upgrades don’t cost consumers anything, but operating system upgrades cost money. If Joe Sixpack sees a web site error that says, “You need Internet Explorer 8 to view this site” then he just upgrades his browser for free from Windows Update. However, if the error says, “You need Windows 2005 to view this site” then Microsoft stands a chance of increasing their revenues.

It’s a smart move for the company’s overall value, since they can’t possibly start charging for standalone browser installs, so they know they need to integrate the browser tightly into the OS, and allow for planned OS obsolescence to keep the revenue streams up.

Plus, the formerly frantic release schedule of browsers has slowed to a trickle, so it makes sense to schedule them in tandem with operating systems. Internet Explorer 7 will come around with Longhorn (the new release of Windows for consumers), and the average user will confuse Longhorn’s new browser with the operating system itself. Users will be more likely to shell out for Longhorn if it comes with significant browser improvements.

To paraphrase the old Sun slogan, the browser is the computer.

Still learning MovableType

I’m still up in Michigan on vacation, and I set aside this afternoon to learn more about MovableType’s templates. I get the feeling I’m missing a whole lot of valuable info here, and I want to integrate the blog more tightly with the rest of my web site.

Today is Dad’s birthday, and I got him a Tivo. If you haven’t gotten a Tivo yet (and according to sales figures, you’re in the vast majority of Americans), you owe it to yourself to go check them out. Tivo makes TV fun again.

I decided to get him a Tivo when I watched him watching TV. Dad & Caryl sit down for dinner around 6 and start channel surfing. You have to do a lot of surfing to find something interesting on TV, and even then, you end up compromising. Tivo makes quality television available anytime, at your convenience, on your schedule. It’s outstanding.

I’m getting frustrated with my LG VX-10 cell phone from Verizon. Out here in the middle of nowhere, it’s hard to get a signal, and even then, it’s a weak analog signal. The VX-10 will only hold on to a weak analog signal for about sixty seconds, at which point it proclaims that it has a dead battery and powers itself off. However, if you just wait a few seconds and power the phone back on, it correctly shows that it’s got a full battery charge. Totally odd. I’m going to take it in for service while I’m up here, and I’m half hoping that they say it’s a defect in the phone, because I’m not terribly fond of this phone. It’s okay, but it’s just not great. I’ve got my eye on the new color Sidekick from T-Mobile, but I doubt I can get out of my Verizon contract early.

R&R in Michigan

lapcam.jpg

I’m up in Michigan on vacation this week, having a great time. The weather is fantastic, in the low to mid 60s during the day, and Erika’s getting her first experience of the summers here. Beats the daylights out of the winters. I went to high school here in Whitehall, on the coast of Lake Michigan, and I have a lot of nice memories of the area. We forgot to bring the digital camera, so I’ll have to post photos later after we get them developed.

We’re helping Dad and Caryl stain the cedar for the outside of the new addition to their house. They added a garage with a workshop, a half bath, utility room, and more space to the living room. Seeing this stuff in action gets me and Erika that much more excited about getting a house. We picked out a floor plan at the newest Perry Homes development inside the loop, and now we’re working out the mortgage details. Caryl’s got a lot of home-planning magazines, so we’ve been looking at different color schemes for the new house.

R&R in Michigan

lapcam.jpg

I’m up in Michigan on vacation this week, having a great time. The weather is fantastic, in the low to mid 60s during the day, and Erika’s getting her first experience of the summers here. Beats the daylights out of the winters. I went to high school here in Whitehall, on the coast of Lake Michigan, and I have a lot of nice memories of the area. We forgot to bring the digital camera, so I’ll have to post photos later after we get them developed.

We’re helping Dad and Caryl stain the cedar for the outside of the new addition to their house. They added a garage with a workshop, a half bath, utility room, and more space to the living room. Seeing this stuff in action gets me and Erika that much more excited about getting a house. We picked out a floor plan at the newest Perry Homes development inside the loop, and now we’re working out the mortgage details. Caryl’s got a lot of home-planning magazines, so we’ve been looking at different color schemes for the new house.

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