now all softcore in the name of shopping

I don’t remem­ber how I end­ed up there (real­ly, I don’t) but I hap­pened upon the women’s cloth­ing sec­tion the oth­er day, and noticed that they have a new fea­ture on their site. For cer­tain items of cloth­ing, if you hov­er your mouse over the image, a clos­er ver­sion will appear. This is great for real­ly exam­in­ing the details of the item you’re con­sid­er­ing buy­ing. It’s also great if you’re a thir­teen year-old boy. And no, I couldn’t find any male cloth­ing worth “exam­in­ing.”

It takes off

We watched the Myth­busters tack­le the “Air­plane on a Con­vey­or Belt” issue last night. They did not real­ly build a huge con­vey­or belt (they essen­tial­ly used a long can­vas tarp to pull the run­way out from under the plane), and so the result (the air­plane took off) won’t real­ly sat­is­fy every­one. But, it remains the right answer.

Here’s some back­ground: the kot­tke post that start­ed it all, the expla­na­tion for the sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly mind­ed (the com­ments are fun), and kottke’s live­blog­ging of the Myth­busters episode.

Here’s how I try to explain it. An air­plane fly­ing through the air is vir­tu­al­ly no dif­fer­ent than one “fly­ing” on the ground. The one on the ground is not (yet) going as fast as the one in the air, and there’s a minis­cule amount of fric­tion act­ing on the bear­ings in the plane’s wheels, but real­ly, they are mov­ing under the same laws of physics. Air­plane push­es on the air, and moves for­ward. What the ground, or the con­vey­or belt are doing to the wheels is large­ly irrel­e­vant. No mat­ter how fast the con­vey­or belt goes, all it is act­ing on are the wheels of the air­plane, not the plane itself. It can make those wheels spin crazy fast, but the plane will still take off.

So there.

Oh, and I like the sen­ti­ment of kottke’s t-shirt, but I’d like a pic­ture of a plane on it, frankly. And a con­vey­or belt.

Nanny needed for one half hour per day

So we’re think­ing about what to do for our babysit­ter-enabled evening this week­end, and we real­ize that what we real­ly want most is to have some­one get our kids ready for bed. The bed­time rou­tine of prod­ding, cajol­ing, and (usu­al­ly) threat­en­ing the kids into their paja­mas is a bru­tal gaunt­let at the end of a long and tir­ing day. Can we hire a nan­ny to just get the kids ready for bed, then we’ll come in and sing or read to them? That would be awe­some.

My wife turns 21 today

Okay, not 21, exact­ly, but that’s the best answer when a woman asks you to guess her age. It is her birth­day today, and we have big plans. Okay, not exact­ly big plans, because we’re par­ents of two kids under five, and she’s a sec­ond-year col­lege pro­fes­sor, but we do have a babysit­ter for Sat­ur­day night! Woo hoo! And I’m bak­ing the Best Choco­late Cake today. Real­ly. That’s what it’s called, and it must be, ’cause it’s so good even I eat it (and I don’t like choco­late). I love you, Sweet­ie.

Apple Displays and the iSight

Any­one else won­der­ing when Apple will put an iSight cam­era in their free­stand­ing LCD dis­plays? Or if they ever will? I believe that every time some­one at Apple takes a look at the issue, they flash back to the ADC mon­i­tors with their all-in-one Apple-only cable, and all the prob­lems and bad press they got with those, and they shud­der and move on to con­tem­plate the New­ton II as a more fea­si­ble project. But I sure would like an Apple dis­play with a cam­era built in.

The Home Computing Master Plan: Macworld 2008 Edition

Here is the orig­i­nal mas­ter plan. It is notable most­ly for pre­dict­ing yesterday’s Apple TV announce­ment, and for my woe­ful bitch­ing about the com­put­er that I still have now (that was more than two years ago!) I now present to you, the new edi­tion of the Home Com­put­ing Mas­ter Plan, as informed by the recent­ly con­clud­ed Mac­world 2008 Stevenote.

Caveat: Some of these items may not be made by Apple, but that should not dimin­ish their worth in your eyes.

The Home Com­put­ing Mas­ter Plan has sev­er­al com­po­nents that fill basic needs in our dig­i­tal life. Those needs include the pro­tec­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of our pre­cious data, the avail­abil­i­ty of per­son­al pro­cess­ing, and the desire for access any­where.

  1. Pre­cious Data: We have a lot of data that only exists in dig­i­tal form. Pic­tures, movies, music, doc­u­ments, etc. Much of that (the pho­tos espe­cial­ly) is price­less and irre­place­able. This past year, we spent upwards of $2,000 recov­er­ing that data from two failed hard dri­ves, and I don’t care to do that again. Our data should be secure and backed-up.
  2. Per­son­al Pro­cess­ing: The orig­i­nal plan called for “Pow­er­house Pro­cess­ing,” a tow­er-grade com­put­er some­where in the house that could real­ly crunch. At the time, I was com­ing off of a job where I had that kind of pow­er, and I thought it was a required item in the Plan. Well, it isn’t. We just need com­pe­tent com­put­ers. But we each need our own, that much is clear.
  3. Access Any­where: To best enjoy our dig­i­tal life, we need to be able to get to it from where we are: the TV room, the kitchen, the car, the store, school, vaca­tion, wher­ev­er.

The plan: Pre­cious Data

Right now, all of our pre­cious data is stored on an Infrant Rea­dy­NAS device. Our data takes up a lit­tle less than 500 GB. That’s all our stuff. The NAS is in RAID mode, and cur­rent­ly has two 500 GB dri­ves. That means, if one of the dri­ves fails, I can run out and buy anoth­er, slip it in, and all will be well. We’re start­ing to butt up against the lim­its of the two dri­ves, how­ev­er, and it may be time to buy a third dri­ve (there are four slots).

I like the RAID sys­tem, but I wor­ry a bit about the lack of a real back­up. I’d like to have anoth­er copy of the data some­where, not just a redun­dant ver­sion on the NAS. Leopard’s Time Machine is easy to use, and turns out to be pret­ty flex­i­ble. I like the idea of being able to revis­it my files from a few days ago. That’s pret­ty cool. And it can use the Infrant NAS as a Time Machine disk. I just don’t know if it can do it over a net­work.

Also, to use Time Machine, you need a com­put­er run­ning Leop­ard. So that pret­ty much requires a desk­top com­put­er some­where to “man­age” our pre­cious data.

So, the plan is to get a Mac mini with the min­i­mum 120 GB dri­ve, and attach an exter­nal dri­ve, like Newer’s min­iStack series, prob­a­bly in the 1 TB size (just for fun). That’ll live in the kitchen, and hold all our data, run iTunes, etc. It’ll have a wire­less key­board stuck in a draw­er, and a third par­ty LCD in the small­ish size (13 inch­es?) on an arm so I can hide it away.

The NAS will act as a Time Machine disk for the mini, and for the exter­nal dri­ve (and for all our oth­er Macs). This is, of course, assum­ing Time Machine will work over a net­work now, or soon. That way, all our data will exist in two places, and the back­up will be a RAID device. Excel­lent!

The plan: Per­son­al Pro­cess­ing

With the mini in the kitchen han­dling server­ish duties (and kitchen-relat­ed web brows­ing, maybe bill pay­ing) we’ll each need our own machines to keep our per­son­al stuff. These machines will also be backed up to the NAS via Time Machine (the net­work­ing caveat still being exi­gent).

The wife will be stick­ing with her Win­dows lap­tops for a while. More pow­er to her. I’ve got my old 12″ iBook G4, which is des­per­ate­ly in need of a refresh. The new Mac­Book Air is not for me. I have my eyes on a 15″ Mac­Book Pro, a large exter­nal mon­i­tor, and an exter­nal key­board and mouse. I’d love a dock, but am unsure about the one dock avail­able for the Mac, the ones from Book­Endz. I guess you take what there is. I’ll also get a sec­ond bat­tery and a bat­tery charg­ing sta­tion. Noth­ing like hav­ing to teth­er your lap­top.

The boys don’t need com­put­ers yet, thank good­ness.

The plan: Access Any­where

To enjoy all of this, it is impor­tant to be able to get to my stuff wher­ev­er I am. With a lap­top, I can take impor­tant stuff with me, and with Leopard’s screen/computer shar­ing, I can get to the mini when I need to. It may require a (shud­der) .Mac sub­scrip­tion to be trans­par­ent.

We like lis­ten­ing to our music on iTunes, and our cur­rent set­up is just about per­fect in that regard. iTunes runs on our desk­top machine (the mini in the new plan), and pipes the music to an Air­port Express (should that be a ven­er­a­ble Air­port Express?), which sends it out the audio jack to a hob­by built FM trans­mit­ter. We tune the music in on our radios all over the house. Yay! But to change tracks, we need to go to the com­put­er, or use one of sev­er­al imper­fect “remote” itunes con­trollers via my lap­top. So, the plan calls for an iPod touch with Remote Bud­dy installed. Music lis­ten­ing nir­vana. We have a lit­tle iPod (thanks, sis!) for the car, and that’ll do for now. Next car we buy had bet­ter have bet­ter iPod options though.

We’d also like to enjoy our pic­tures and movies more. Right now, the only way to do that is to set the 12″ iBook down on the cof­fee table, snug­gle up three feet from the screen, and wait for stuff to stream from down­stairs. We’ll solve this prob­lem with a few items. First, a new base sta­tion, oper­at­ing at the much faster 802.11n pro­to­col. Then, I think I might spring for an Apple TV, prob­a­bly the small one (we’d only be rent­ing movies via its inter­face, any pur­chas­es would be done on the desk­top machine and streamed to the TV via the new base sta­tion). I’ve offi­cial­ly giv­en up on the TiVo as a home media stream­er. Sup­port on the Mac is woe­ful, and the Apple TV is cheap enough (and I have an HDMI slot open on my receiv­er) to get it, as it promis­es to work with the Apple ecosys­tem I already have. Yay, pic­tures and slideshows and movies (and rentals and ripped DVDs) on our TV. About time, I say.

Final­ly, to real­ly get the most out of our dig­i­tal life, I need to make more pic­ture books. I’ve made a few, but they are a lit­tle expen­sive, so the incen­tive is not there. I could also make some DVDs, but I am peren­ni­al­ly wait­ing for the next ver­sion of iDVD to make the process eas­i­er. I wait still.

Get­ting there

This list is a lit­tle less pie-in-the-sky than the pre­vi­ous iter­a­tion, but much still hinges on one unan­swered ques­tion: will Time Machine back up to a net­worked dri­ve? No answer as of this writ­ing.

So, the cost of all this? Too much, I’m sure, and the small LCD mon­i­tor will be hard to find, espe­cial­ly one that is VESA arm com­pat­i­ble. Let’s price it out, using my wife’s per­son­al pur­chase .edu dis­count for the Apple Store stuff:

  • Mac mini — 2.0 GHz, Super­Drive, 2 GB RAM, 120 GB HD, wire­less keyboard+mouse, .Mac: $1113
  • New­erTech min­iStack v3 — 1 TB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB data cache: $480
  • Sea­gate Bar­racu­da 7200 RPM, 500 GB SATA inter­nal disk for NAS: $160
  • 15″ LCD Mon­i­tor (like one from View­Son­ic or Dell): $160 to $190
  • VESA-com­pli­ant wall mount swing arm for LCD: $60 to $100
  • 15″ Mac­Book Pro — 2.6 GHz, 2GB RAM, 200 GB SATA 7200 RPM, Glossy Dis­play, Apple­Care: $2943
  • 4GB RAM kit for Mac­Book Pro from Cru­cial: $108
  • 24″ LCD Mon­i­tor (Apple if they do an iSight, Dell if not): $700 to $800
  • New key­board (wired): $50
  • Book­Endz dock for 15″ Mac­Book Pro: $300
  • New­erTech 15″ Mac­Book Pro bat­tery charg­er: $150
  • Replace­ment bat­tery for 15″ Mac­Book Pro: $116 from Apple (the only source cur­rent­ly)
  • iPod touch — 16 GB: $400
  • Remote Bud­dy license: $40 or so
  • Air­port Extreme 802.11n Base Sta­tion (assum­ing TimeMa­chine fix): $160
  • Apple TV — 40 GB: $229

So, that comes to a grand total of $7339. Less than I thought, frankly. Secur­ing our Pre­cious Data would cost $2043. Upgrad­ing my per­son­al com­put­er would cost $4467. Ouch. And get­ting all fan­cy with our dig­i­tal assets would cost only $829.

We’re tak­ing dona­tions!

24 hours is not enough to watch a digital movie rental

Okay, I touched on this in my Mac­world cov­er­age, but it deserves its own post.

We have a TiVo Series 3 that con­nects to the Inter­net. I can see us own­ing an Apple TV at some point in the future. We are mem­bers of Net­flix. All three of these allow for some form of dig­i­tal movie rentals. The TiVo uses Amazon’s Unbox ser­vice. Apple TV uses iTunes. And Net­flix uses… well, you can only watch their movies on a PC, so screw ‘em.

The oth­er two have a pret­ty con­sis­tent pol­i­cy. Order a rental and you have thir­ty days to start watch­ing it before it is erased. Once you start to watch it, you have 24 hours to fin­ish it, watch it again, etc., before it is erased. And there­in lies the prob­lem.

My wife and I love the idea of dig­i­tal rentals. No movie store, lit­tle delay, prices are okay (if a lit­tle expen­sive). But we can only watch movies at night, after the boys are in bed. That means we start about 8:30 pm or so. And we have small boys. Small boys who wear us out. It is not impos­si­ble that we might be too tired to fin­ish watch­ing our movie. If we fail to fin­ish our movie, we must fin­ish it before 8:30 the next night, or we are out of luck. Our 24 hour win­dow will be closed.

That doesn’t work for us. I’m sur­prised that it would work for any­one with a reg­u­lar job, kids, or a life. Which doesn’t say much about the exec­u­tives at TiVo or Apple (you hearin’ me, Steve?). 24 hours does not work. It is a num­ber made up in a board­room.

The solu­tion is sim­ple. Make the watch­ing win­dow 36 hours. No big deal. I’d even accept 30 hours. Hell, I would grate­ful­ly take 26 hours. But please make it more then 24. Thank you.

MW 2008: Liveblogging winners

Clear­ly the win­ners of the live­blog­ging com­pe­ti­tion were the guys at MacRu­mors. Their AJAX-pow­ered inter­face gave news updates in a time­ly man­ner, and their pho­to feed was show­ing rel­e­vant pho­tos at the right time.

Sec­ond place goes to Ars Tech­ni­ca, for their almost-as-up-to-the-moment feed as MacRu­mors, com­bined with a lit­tle more com­men­tary (the MacRu­mors stuff was a lit­tle dry). They get dinged on the slow and ill-timed deliv­ery of pho­tos, and their non-AJAXy good­ness. The refresh but­ton is so 2006.

Third goes to Mac­world mag­a­zine, which came through with the most in depth cov­er­age, giv­ing links and per­spec­tive. Guess it helps to have an edi­to­r­i­al staff at home to rely upon.

Engad­get and Giz­mo­do were both behind with their updates, had some serv­er deliv­ery prob­lems, and were out­classed by the oth­er three.

Questions about Time Capsule

Part of the Mac­world 2008 Keynote post-mortem. Time Cap­sule is Apple’s wire­less hub + back­up dri­ve all-in-one prod­uct. It pro­vides fast wire­less net­work­ing: 802.11n. It pro­vides a large, “serv­er-grade” hard dri­ve, acces­si­ble wire­less­ly. (By “serv­er-grade” they seem to mean 7200 rpm, SATA.) You can use this hard dri­ve to make Time Machine back­ups from all your Macs (yes, more than one can back­up to the same dri­ve, wire­less­ly). It also pro­vides a USB port for anoth­er device (a hard dri­ve, a print­er, or a USB hub) to be shared wire­less­ly.

Time Cap­sule is a big advance­ment from the pre­vi­ous 802.11n base sta­tion for one rea­son, Time Machine (the back­up soft­ware) would not work wire­less­ly before. That’s great, for the inter­nal disk in Time Cap­sule. What I can’t find out, how­ev­er, is whether an exter­nal hard disk attached to Time Capsule’s USB port and shared wire­less­ly will be com­pat­i­ble with Time Machine.

That would make all the dif­fer­ence to me.