Computers at home

The Bakers have fully moved out and the second bedroom in my apartment is now free, which means it’s now prime to be filled with computer junk. Of course, I wasted no time and have mostly set up my desks, and am now basking in the glow of my humongous new monitor as all of the Windows XP updates stream down onto the new computer. Hopefully I’ll start sucking down the Fedora Core 4 torrent tonight, and I’ll have a quality Linux desktop once again.

Confidence

I’ve been pushing myself a little too hard the past weeks, but I readily admit that I like it. I like working hard hours, and not just for the simple sake of having done something difficult. At least I don’t think that’s it.

I dreamt last night that I was helping a new generic somebody with a programming task at work. I sat at their computer and showed them a few things, and put things here and here and here, and then hooked it all together just so. They were so excited, it was so clean and tidy, and I was proud.

I don’t remember having had another confident dream like that. I rarely give myself such credit in the waking world, but I’m also a sneaky bastard like that.

Yes, this is a cell phone recommendation

I purchased a Motorola RAZR V3 shortly before I moved to Charlotte, and I have seldom regretted the purchase. No belt appendages for me; I require that my phone be kept in my pocket, and anything thicker than the RAZR is a nuisance. I honestly don’t give a shit about cell phones as a geek gadget anymore; they are a necessary evil for any modern professional, and I prefer to think about mine in the same way as I do my wallet. I don’t really like my wallet, but I’ll pay a lot more than you might think for a quality combination of size, comfort, and function.

After almost six months of use, I discovered my phone began to drop connection after about 12 minutes, which is usually a good time to pull the portable microwave oven away from what’s left of my brain, but I digress. So, a ring to Cingular quickly got a replacement unit in the mail. Unfortunately the replacement was a slightly screwed-up refurb (warped keypad, flip top bent), and as I’d just spent six months keeping my not-inexpensive original in perfect shape, this would not do. Off to a Cingular store to plead my case. Luckily, the second store I tried was a corporate store with a lady who felt my pain. I think it must have been a returned unit, but it wasn’t a refurb, and she even replaced battery. I somehow doubt this is company policy, but it left this customer very satisfied.

The connection problems were surprising, considering this phone has performed better as a phone than any other I’ve had in the past. My only real complaint has been the labyrinthine user interface. However, the phone book can be set to a list mode and only show one number per contact at a time, and I have finally discovered that any of the phone’s features can be set as a hot-key. I have trained myself every morning over the past few months to access the alarm clock three menus deep in my sleep, but it turns out this was a silly waste as I have two function buttons and the four-way navigational pad to choose from all along. One press to get to the alarm settings before bed, another press to turn it off in the morning; press up on the nav pad for recent calls and down for the full address book. Tight. You know, like it should have been out of the box.

New computer time

I will soon have a new computer at home, for the first time in a number of years. This means I will soon have my AMD desktop moved completely back to Linux, and will hopefully get down to properly exploring C# development on my nostalgic platform of choice. While the new computer will indeed be a stunner (dual-core processor, relatively modern video card), I’m mostly excited about the humongous new monitor. The price on the whole set-up was amazingly low, all things considering. Now, I’m pondering the possibility of a DVI-D KVM switch that will support 1920×1200.

Robert Plant is a Jay fan

When asked for his take on the current state of popular music, Robert Plant first jokingly complained that he shouldn’t be asked that question, then replied that he liked a lot of music coming out of America, “everything from Jay Farrar to Sonic Youth.”

(Sorry, I can’t remember the title of the magazine; it was some casino industry rag.)

The future framework for Windows GUI design

Karsten Januszewski, a Technology Evangelist at Microsoft, recently demoed Avalon at a Macromedia design conference. In case you don’t know what Avalon is, it’s the next generation graphics framework for Windows. It’s mostly interesting because it joins the old (Win32, GDI) with the new (DirectX, Direct3D), and makes the visual rendering of any user interface widget completely customizable through a mark-up language. (Well, the mark-up language is but one option, but the one I suspect will be the most revolutionary.) This demonstration isn’t anything new to those who have been keeping up with the devleopment of Avalon and XAML over the past few years, but it’s a nice semi-technical demonstration, particularly for Flash and web designers who may have never been exposed to traditional Windows GUI development.

While I am very new to Windows GUI design and development, I am already looking forward to abandoning my development cycle of doing a visual mock-up/storyboard in Illustrator, and then completely implementing in Visual Studio. While a wonderful development for its time (and still light years ahead of anything in Java land), the GUI designer in Visual Studio amounts basically to placing 2D objects on a grid and selecting their colors. When you want to do something beyond basic size and placement changes — round the corners of a button, for example — you quickly must resort to writing GDI+ code that creates pens and lines and curves and such, and you draw everything about the button in procedural code. You want to do something like, say, grow a status indicator out of the top of the button? Roll up your sleeves, because you are about to get very dirty. Some day soon, what the buttons do will be written in Visual Studio, but how the buttons look, feel, react — everything about the interface — will be as easy to customize as Illustrator mock-ups are to draw.

Programmers, now is the time for you to finally learn to use your vector-based drawing tools, and maybe even a little 3D modeling and some animation techniques. The golden age of the interface designer is almost upon us.

Apple finally does a mouse right?

When Apple first came out with their first buttonless mouse design and phased out the tortureous hockey puck, I assumed it was really a mouse without pressable buttons (think 3G iPod buttons). Then, when I finally got to touch one, I found that they simply pivoted the whole mouse surface, turning the entire mouse into a single button. This was actually worse, as I much prefer to click a mouse with my fingers than with my entire wrist. I was crushed, to say the least.

Well, years later, they might have finally fixed it.

Listening

I really can’t believe I wasn’t a Charlie Mars fan back when I was in school. I mean, he came through town a lot, and I never went to see him live. I remember first hearing about him from Steven, who said Shooter was a big fan, but I never got any of his CDs until after I left town for Tennessee.

Strangely, his eponymous disc reminds me the most of those times, and it just came out last year. Perhaps I was in deep in memory when I first heard it. Perhaps it’s his familiar vocal twang and the references to Burnsides and Mississippi summers. It reminds me of all the stuff I loved from school, but without making me feel old about it.

I’ve also never thought of myself as a Coldplay fan. I got Rush of Blood to the Head somewhere around the time that “Clocks” got huge, mostly in a hope of familiarizing myself with something mainstream that I could tolerate. The best I could really say about it as a whole album was that I didn’t particularly dislike it.

Due to this yawning experience, I didn’t exactly rush out to get X&Y when it first came out, even though I was more than a little impressed with the visuals of the “Speed of Sound” video clip. Something about those flashy lights, I guess. Anyhow, I eventually picked up the new disc, and much to my surprise I love it. “Speed of Sound” doesn’t sound anything like “Clocks” to me anymore, and it has one of the most awesome country songs I’ve heard in a while. It’s been quite a while since I listened to something so much that I actively put it aside for fear of burning it out. I’ve since picked up Parachutes, which is pretty damn good in its own right, but my opinion is that the latest is their best yet. By far.

If they are the new direction of boring and anemic comtemporary pop, I’m definitely encouraged.