Archives for posts with tag: technology

I’ve accumulated a few laptops over the past five years. My first laptop “lasted” for four years of college (i.e. killed its first hard drive and was running Vista for most of its career), but I’ve since moved on to more powerful, non-Windows machines. Though four computers may seem a little unnecessary to my girlfriend, each still serves its own purpose in the various virtual ventures I partake in today.

Dell Inspiron · Windows 7 · Previously, my primary computer. Currently hooked to my MIDI-enabled piano for any time I want to work on some music. Occasionally turned on and remote desktop’d into when I really need IE or Photoshop.

System76 Gazelle Professional · Ubuntu 13.04 · Primary computer for everything; mostly-permanent denizen of my desk hooked to an external mouse, keyboard, hard drives, and second monitor.

Apple MacBook Pro · OS X 10.9 · Day job computer; occasional development and double pixel-density web testing at home.

Lenovo ThinkPad X201 · Lubuntu 12.10 · Primary “laptop,” i.e. portable computer; pretty much a dedicated development machine and replacement for my Samsung N130 netbook, whose two-year use inspired my full switch to Linux, and whose left-clicker recently went kaput.

$ logout

I have a ton of movies. When I first got a Raspberry Pi late last year, my first thought was to use it as a media center. So I hooked it up to my high-def TV and a hard drive with some very old pirated Simpsons episodes (from the days of Napster), and installed Raspbmc on an SD card. It worked great, and despite the need to get up and plug it in, and the $10 wired keyboard I used to control it, it worked great. If I had more money at the time, I would’ve gone with a Wi-Fi dongle so I could use my phone as a remote, or at least gotten a wireless keyboard.

A few months went by before my parents came up with a spare Blu-ray player that also happened to support DLNA— finally, I could be lazy again. I hooked the Pi straight into my router upstairs, plugged in the harddrive, and installed MiniDLNA. Downstairs, the Blu-ray player picked it up and instantly I had access to all of my digital video.

But soon, I craved more. So I decided to convert my DVD collection.


HandBrake turned out to be the best software for the task, both for its abilities and propensity for any OS you’re using (like Ubuntu). Ripping is pretty straightforward:

  1. Insert the DVD, click Source
  2. I used the dropdown to select my DVD drive (/dev/sr0)
  3. Hit okay, it starts scanning
  4. Select the title with what should be the duration of the movie. If you’re having trouble, check out When HandBrake won’t rip your DVDs.
  5. I’m happy with my 90-minute movies taking up around 1 GB– my 1 TB harddrive can handle it. So I started with the High Profile preset, and made the following changes:
    1. Format: MKV
    2. Video
      1. Framerate: Constant
      2. Constant Quality: RF: 16
    3. Audio
      1. English Track – Mix: Dolby Surround
  6. Press Start and let it run in the background.

These settings were perfect for a high quality video of moderate size in a format supported by my Blu-ray player. Experiment to see what works best for you.

On my machine, it takes about 25 minutes to transcode a 90 minute movie, with my CPU load hovering around 9 or 10. I couldn’t get my 5 year old Dell with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor to complete a whole rip, though it does like to overheat a lot these days. Enjoy!

$ logout

I read an article a few years ago about someone noticing a cyclical trend in computing: going from dumb-terminal-connected-to-mainframe to personal-computing and now back to cloud computing.

I’ve always loved the idea of creating a website, since I made my first one on an IBM ThinkPad running Windows 95 in 5th grade. It was both my foray into “programming” (just HTML, not much javascript) and sharing something I’ve created with the world. I’ve held on to that feeling through all the websites I’ve made since then; the feeling of looking at my own creation, that I could change at any time to my liking. Like a painting that never dries, and is on constant display in space— where anyone in the world can see it. This is quite the image of grandeur, but one that attracts me to what I do, despite missing the hubris to match up.

So when new services come about—ones that allow you to create something, especially—I’m instantly hesitant to trust them completely with my data. Back in “the day,” any Myspace designs would be best hosted on my own site, in case / when they change the design. Important Twitter-like statuses are best stored on my local machine. I can only use Dropbox knowing those files are actually saved on my computers, and not purely on their servers.

It’s this visceral feeling that makes me uneasy and mostly apprehensive towards the longevity of activities I partake in on the internet. Some creations aren’t as important as others: I won’t miss a Facebook status disappearing into the great /dev/null in the sky, but some products of using these platforms (a Facebook note, for example) are worth keeping, and it’d be nice to know they’re safely on one of my own hard drives.

In my own case, there’s LunchTable: users post statuses (long and short) and interact with each other, adding to a group’s conversation what is necessary or interesting. They have the ability to create something they otherwise can’t in offline software— but why shouldn’t they reap the benefits of both worlds? With LunchBox, the accompanying open source project for using exported LunchTable data, I’m hoping to encourage users to both create something meaningful and feel like they’re not dependent on a service to forever access their own data. It’s a trend I would love to see more of.

$ logout

If you’re going the route of a vertical background gradient on your site (using a tool like the Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator (seriously, it’s great)), you might notice it does in fact fill your entire body, but not the entire window like you’re used to with solid colors. Simple fix:

html {
    min-height: 100%;

Just that like that: beautiful browser-based gradients.