Busy, Finished the Dining Room, Theresa Birdfeeder Webcam, Black Friday, Logitech Orbit Webcam, Voice Thing from Vozme, Firefox 3 Alpha, XNView

Busy

It’s been kinda a hectic couple weeks, as mentioned in a previous post. Hell, a hectic month come to think of it. With Xmas coming and I’m getting ready for that, then there was Thanksgiving, Black Friday (we never miss it), and all this month and next customers will be getting ready for Xmas and gearing up their businesses for it. Throw in the remodeling of our dining room… yea, I haven’t had much time for blogging or much of interest to blog about.

Dining Room Remodel

Our house is OLD. Yea, OLD in capitals.

It’s so old that even the historical department of the Watertown Daily Times and library couldn’t find the original date that the house was built, or any references to when it was built or who built it (they did do a story on it many years ago).

Some say that War of 1812 soldiers were served in the serving window downstairs, and that their food was made in the very large cellar fireplace and dutch oven. Newspapers were found many years ago in the walls, from the 1812 period. The construction and how the stones are cut is certainly more primitive looking then the other stone houses I have examined, including my friend’s up the road.

So who knows exactly how old it is. BTW, the pic at right is an old picture from a remodel that was done and before the house was in any kind of livable condition; well before I was born, it shows the dutch oven. I don’t have a recent pic because it’s hard to take one, as the modern furnace I put in a few years ago is right in front of it.

It has great character; people say. I’d love to own an old house, other’s quip.

But it’s also a lot of pain-in-the-ass trouble.

Like when we’re remodeling the stone and original wood part. Nothing’s straight.

And before you say that’s true of many houses, including new ones, this is beyond that. Oh believe me – it’s not your run-of-the-mill f’ew degrees off’ or ‘few inches off’. Very hard to make anything come even close to being right. It’s so nice to work in the new addition that we put in – like night-and-day.

We’ve remodeled all the rooms in the house (except the third bedroom which is going to be a storage/craft room) and the dining room was last. We went with a bit of a rustic look, to cover the problems that would have taken major demo and reconstruction to fix. It’s just a dining room after all, we walk through it and that’s it.

The Pergo floor looks the best of anything we’ve done, I think – it was extremely easy to do, just as I suspected, but time-consuming due to all the cuts. The walls had to be patched, completely skim-coated and redone, and I had to rip off years of stucco and concrete and plaster from the fireplace, and cover and seal up everything. Then we built a closest, trimmed doors, leveled floors, added new support legs in the cellar, and a host of other things. Long, time-consuming.

But it’s finally almost done, except for a little trim, a little touch-up, some tweaking, and such.

Theresa Birdfeeder Webcam

If you like webcams from around the area, or like birds or like to keep track of the weather – I have a webcam up.There’s a couple webcams in the area like the one overlooking Public Square in Watertown.But I just ran across another birdfeeder webcam in the region, right in Theresa. You can find it here. It’s hosted by a company called Wildbirds.net and even has a streaming webcam. Nice. The owner tells me that they are starting a new website up called NNYNow that may compete with Newzjunky. Should be interesting.

For more local webcams go to the webcam page Courtesy of Northern-NYS.com.

Black FridayBlack Friday is crazy. Crazy and exciting. You have to have a certain stomach for it, sure; and a certain attitude toward the whole thing.There’s certainly some good deals. If you don’t mind waiting in line, the crowds, pushing, shoving, and such. And if you don’t mind doing the same sometimes. Despite what some people say it’s not junk or cheap crap (well, some is), you can get some great deals.And it’s a great way to observe human interactions at some of their most primitive (shopping ;).


Logitech Orbit Webcam

One of the things I picked up was a Logitech Orbit webcam for $19 (though I suspect the price will continue to drop on this, the whole face-following part didn’t seem to catch on). The things sell for way over $100 normally.

This is not your normal cheapo webcam, the video and still quality is excellent (go to my webcam page and click the fav pictures link to compare the quality of the current pic with that of previous ones).

Plus it has a long cord, an optional stalk the head can be mounted on, is zoomable, has a built-in USB mike, high-quality optics, high resolution, and does pretty good in the dark (like my old Connectix/Logitech Quickcam). But perhaps the most interesting features is that it is motorized with servos and will follow your face as you videoconference and use a messenger program with video capabilities.

I only needed a new and better webcam to repalce my outdoor one, though I do videoconference with a group of web-designers and computer dudes once a week, so it’ll be used for this also.

The face-following works well, though a bit jerky and the motors are loud (the cats are alternately scared and fascinated). The software that comes with it plugs into various messenger programs to allow you to use the face-following feature (say that five times real fast), and has some other okay options. Including using avatars instead of your real face. The avatars are freaky (see the one at left), their lip movements and expressions follow your’s. Creeptastic.

I’ve been playing around with some third-party software that allows extra things to be done with it, and some examples of hacks. Like following the color red instead of a face. Lot of potential for interesting experiments and hacking with it.

 

Voice Thing from Vozme

Interesting little audio/voice applets from vozme.com that allows you to add the ability for a visitor to your website or blog to hear the text spoken in a a fairly good synthesized voice. The applet below allows you to swipe some text and hear it, but there’s other options available like voice greetings and such when you enter a page.

Firefox 3 AlphaStill evaluating Firefox 3 Alphaoccasionally, and keeping up on some of the nightly builds when possible. The memory usage seems to be getting better, but there’s still some leakage I think.My ongoing thought is that many people who will update when the final version of the release comes out will be disappointed that it doesn’t visually look different. It will probably be a letdown for some people, but rest-assured under the hood there seems to be some differences.I’ve yet to test the malware, anti-virus integration, and better phishing filter with anything substantial. But the speed with the new rendering engine may be faster. It’s so subjective sometimes with net-lag.

XnViewI do a lot with graphics and photos, sometimes hundreds a week. Displaying, editing, evaluating for websites, etc. The Windows XP graphics viewer is nice, and M$’s add-ons for it greatly enhance it. And when something heavy-duty is needed I got to something like Paint Shop Pro, Gimp2, etc.But many times you just want to quickly look at something, or maybe just as quickly fix a red-eye, do a little editing, resizing, or such. I ran across XnView
and after trying out various other display programs I am happily using this. Previously I used Irfanview and frankly this is very similar, but with many more options.At the top of alternatives I tried was Fast Stone Viewer, a close second when it came to this sort of program. It’s downfall for me was the program allowing only once instance of itself to run. Many times I want to compare pics side-by-side, I couldn’t seem to do that with this program. Otherwise, the interface was nicer and it may have have had a few more tertiary options. But it read only about twenty file formats.At the other end of the spectrum was programs like Picasa from Google. Gahk, nothing like making a program tailored to the lowest common denominator when it comes to computer users, though it’s excellent for cataloging your photos.Xnview can use Adobe Photoshop/Paint Shop Pro plugins, can do four hundred file formats, does lots of conversions, has many specific plugins and addons for doing various things, can edit EXIF, has lossless rotating and cropping and all the regular basic photo and graphic manipulation, simple editing, ability to load other programs of your specification, has batch conversions, imports TWAIN and clipboard items, is drag’n’drop of course, and generally does a good job of replacing the standard Windows graphics and fax viewer.

And it’s free, can’t beat that. Give it a try if you need a graphics viewer.

 

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