powermate, still works, updated



Just wanted to reiterate how cool my Griffin PowerMate is. I wrote about it in a post about analog computer devices a couple of years ago.

I had it mothballed for a while, but I’m setting up my new desk space and installed it again. It works in 64-bit Vista which I wasn’t expecting and the latest software update is much nicer than it used to be. iTunes integration is built in now, no hacks required.

They even lowered the price, $36

On a related note my brother Kevin and I have been talking about the Chumby. I think he’s close to getting it, I’ll be sure to get him to write a guest post on his thoughts once he gets it set up.


Gave and got for Birthmas


1) Gave (to Emily): Brompton M3L folding bike. Part of the actual gift many times is the research involved with picking the gift as much as the thing itself. Such was the case with folding bikes. If you’re in the market for one, don’t hesitate to ask, because now I know.

I ended up with the Brompton because it met the following criteria: a) It folds up the smallest of any bike around b) it has an internal gear change mechanism, meaning there’s no external derailer to get tangled or broken. c) it can carry cargo. The Strida is wicked cool, but you really can’t carry much gear on the bike itself and Emily needs to cart photo equipment around. d) It is British and they make cool stuff e) it rode the best of any of the bikes that I tested f) Sturdy enough to ride on New York’s pockmarked streets. g) Should last a long time.


2) Got (xmas): Foodsaver Advanced Design V2840 Kit. I’ve been asking for this every year since, according to my mom, high school.

If you’ve ever had the joy of using the Space Bags for your winter clothes or what have you, this is like that, but for food. It is hard to explain the appeal, but it is undeniable. So far we’ve vacuum sealed cheese, fancy fresh gnocchi, true cinnamon (did you know that 99% of what you get in America is a related spice called Cassia), and whatever else we could find in the cupboard. Next up, a trip to BJs where we’ll make questionable value based purchases and vacuum seal everything. I knew I was in some trouble when it came with a DVD and suddenly the accessories that I absolutely must have became known to me.


3) Got (for birthday – Dec26): Xootr Mg. This was a surprise gift and really I think the only way to get a scooter. Since it was unprompted, I’m spared the “am I scooter riding type person” dilemma and am free to scoot all over town chest held high.

So far, I’m totally digging it. I’m exploring the new neighborhood by my office with speed and flexibility that you really only get from something like a scooter. I’m able to be more strategic when it comes to taking the express subway and scooting the rest of the way.

Also got Yaktrax Pro – snow chains for running shoes, a Nathan Quickdraw Plus Water Bottle, and some other things that are equally great, but less blog-interesting.


ugly sweater 2007

ugly sweaters

Thanks to TJ, Matthew and Jeremy for hosting this year’s Ugly Sweater party.

Emily and I made the trek from NYC up to Cambridge, MA specifically to attend the festivities. (Priceline’d “3 stars”, anywhere on route 128 for $60, got a great Doubletree room out of it)

Can you readers shed light on whether you’ve heard of the ugly sweater party concept before? I have no heard any mention of it locally, but some of the attendees said the Garment District second hand shop was busy with sweater-party-seekers. I love it — nobody can take themselves too seriously wearing something so silly.

You can’t see it in the picture, but on Emily’s sweater, those skiers are three dimensional. She took that sweater all the way to second place in the competition, winning an nine hour long, three DVD set featuring Roddy “Rowdy” Piper.


dpi bang for buck

Studies have repeatedly shown that multiple monitors lead to increased productivity. Enthusiasts out there will tell you that three monitors is ideal [Scott Hanselman]. 

For our needs right now, I needed a monitor solution that gives us the absolute most pixels we can afford on our pre-funded startup budget. There are lots of monitor configurations to choose from at different price points, but which was *best*?

I’ve done the analysis. (All prices and models are Dell)

model resolution pixels price
20″ standard 1600×1200 1,920,000 $449
20″ widescreen 1680×1050 1,764,000 $339
24″ widescreen 1920×1200 2,304,000 $669
27″ widescreen 1920×1200 2,304,000 $995
30″ widescreen 2560×1600 4,096,000 $1,189

higher res**

If you allow that adding additional monitors horizontally is an option*, then you find that the 20″ standard aspect 1600×1200 gives you the highest density DPI at the lowest price with the most flexibility to expand. However, if you are looking for something to play movies or games which don’t scale across monitors well, then the calculus changes and the 24,27 and even the 30″ all start to look more attractive. 

And so, I’ve ordered dual Dell FP2007 LCDs for Tim and I. At some point down the road, we’ll add the third head.


* dual monitor video cards are very common today. Quad capable cards exist, but it usually easier and cheaper to add a second card. Don’t mix brands. Make sure that you have enough available PCI-X(1x,2x,16x,etc) slots available. The Gigabyte motherboards I’m ordering have two full bandwidth slots available and I made sure of that first.

**There are higher density displays out there. My laptop for instance is 1920×1200 in only a 15.4″ widescreen, which is gorgeous btw. It is probably just economics and market research that keeps these screens out of full size desktop configurations. And there are some really high DPI displays out there that are used for medical imaging and such, but you can’t even buy them from mainstream retailers and the prices are not even close to competitive.

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ultras, nyc accessible trails and BBS love


My next running goal is to run an ultra-marathon (anything over 26.2 is “ultra”) this winter/spring sometime. I’ve got a couple that I’m looking at doing, particularly the Loiusville Lovin’ the Hills 50k trail run.

What that means for me is that I need to get up earlier in the morning and that I need to start running a larger percentage of my miles on trails. Central Park has been just completely ideal as a training ground this past year for road racing, but the bridal path loops are just not long enough to support a 20+ mile runs on a regular basis.

Fortunately I found a thread on the Runner’s World site that details a handful of trail runs that are all public transportation accessible. A sample:

1) Long Path. The LP begins just across the GW Bridge in NJ and goes all the way to Albany and beyond. You can take the subway to 181st Street, run across the bridge, and pick the trail up there for an out and back of 400+ miles. If you’re looking for a shorter run, there are a few connector trails on the LP (the first one is about 6 miles north of the GW Bridge, the second about 8 miles); these trails will take you down to the Hudson, and you can take the shore trail south back to the GW Bridge. [link]

There is so much good information in those forums, and there are tons of helpful people. I mentioned them in another context before on my thoughts on community design.

And indeed, in forums all over the Internet. One of the goals for Notches is to make it easier for forums to organize their review information. Because if you need a review of something, the absolute best information is in a forum somewhere. The problem is a) which forum b) how do you find what you need without weeks of reading and reputation building. Stay tuned for more on this front — we’re working on it.

Bonus forum question: What is the highest post count you’ve ever seen? My entry is continuum at Ars Technica w/ 46,951 posts as of this writing.

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custom workstation component list

imageI mentioned in the last post that I was considering building workstations instead of buying from Dell. Here’s what I ended up with:

As a starting point I used the ever-useful Ars Technica System Guide — the Hot Rod. This ends up somewhat similar to the Hanselman/Attwood ultimate developer rig from a couple months ago.

Motherboard – GigaByte GA-P35-DS4. My goodness, trying to tell these boards apart is really tough, GigaByte alone offers like 20 models with the same base chipset. $187.99

CPU – Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600. For development I think quad cores makes sense and this is the price/performance sweet spot I am looking for right now. The same CPU Scott went with, only now it is half the price. $279.99

RAM – G.SKILL 8 GB DDR2-800. $219.98. Too much? Stick with 4? Go with a better brand?

Video – I have nVidia Quadro FX3500 cards surplus that I’ll be using here, but I’ll need to get aftermarket cooling fans.

Drives – WD Raptor 10,000 RPM Sata 150Gb (OS/Apps) + a surplus 7200 rpm 250 Gb for scratch/data. I toyed with the idea of going SSD, but am going to skip it for now. But mark my words, my next laptop with not have rapidly spinning platters of magnetized metal.

Optical – Samsung DVD RW. I am still sore over +R vs -R. And don’t tell me it doesn’t matter, if I’m burning a DVD video for someone else, I have to make both just in case one works in their DVD player and not the other. $31.99

Case – Antec Solo. Cases have actually come a long way, this thing has rubber mounted everything and sound dampening panels, plus it’s cheap at $79.99

Power Supply – Corsair 450VX. Supposedly a very efficient unit w/ 120 mm fan. $79.99

Mouse – Microsoft Wired Laser Mouse 6000. Simple, accurate, reliable, good on any surface. $29.99

Keyboard – My old faithful Dell mechanical keyboard circa 1998.

OS – MS Vista Business 64-bit. I’ve had the pleasure of working with 64 bit Vista for a few months now and it has been totally solid, fast and almost no compatibility/driver issues.

Monitor – Dell FP2007 x 2. I did a ton of research on monitors and DPI trying to find the best value for pixels and this 20″ regular aspect (non-wide) 1600×1200 model comes up best at 100 DPI and ~$400 per. You can go bigger, but you don’t actually buy that many more pixels. You are better off getting additional 20″ sets and going up to 4 columns and 2 rows.

Total cost is for just the workstation is right around $1000. I’m bringing some parts to the party, so the true cost is somewhat higher, but this is still a ton of performance for the money.

And for vendors, I haven’t gotten any good recommendations, so it looks like I’ll just do Newegg and use our corporate Visa.

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