The Forgotten Lefties

I don’t have a photo of this to hand, but CU Boulder attach computer mice in some of their labs to the right side of each keyboard, leaving about 10 inches of cord free. Thanks, CU! You have access ramps for the disabled and want to increase the diversity of your students, but you don’t think about the 10% of your population that is left handed. I don’t know why I felt so mad at the time – I just went to a different lab to do my work. Perhaps it was because I really cannot use a computer as quickly with my right hand (almost, but not quite), and it doesn’t feel at all comfortable.

This brings me onto my next theory – the 50% skill theory. I believe that when we are all born, we each have 100% of skill to allocate between our hands for various sports (some athletes get more than 100%). Left handers get so confused with what to do – do I mirror what the instructor is doing or repeat exactly? As a result, our skill gets split more like 50/50 instead of, say, 80/20 in a regular person. We have equal skill in our hands but neither is particularly good. I have always found that I am terrible in any activity that involves throwing, catching or aiming, so maybe that’s why.

Another thing. When I was in school, we had left handed scissors. You know the type – the blades cross the opposite way. If they have moulded handles, they are moulded to fit the left hand rather than the right. I just cannot use left handed scissors. I hold right-handed scissors in my left hand, but my eye is trained to look at the “cutting” side of the scissors. If I pick up a left-handed pair, I look at the wrong side and my line goes wonky. The funny thing is that I remember when I was about 7, my school bought few left-handed scissors, and they would make┬áme use them, since there were not enough right-handed ones to go around. As a result, my work turned out utterly crap.

Scheduled Maintenance

Why is it necessary to bring down an entire site for hours every weekend to perform scheduled maintenance? I think all bank online account access sites do it, but I rarely ever see online shopping sites doing it. So, what’s the deal? I think it’s another case of unless you are parting with money, they don’t care. It’s pretty simple to switch over to a back-up server while you do an upgrade. Ever notice how you can get through to someone on a sales line quicker than you can get through to support?

Also: Circuit City officially suck. They are closing a local store and liquidating all merchandise. I went tonight and they have a sign saying “everything in store is on sale”. I asked a sales assistant, and they said it includes all display merchandise. I wanted to buy a Canon 40D, but they had none left, and wouldn’t sell me the display copy.

The Mojave Experiment

For those of you who haven’t heard about it yet, the Mojave Experiment is a marketing ploy by Microsoft to encourage people to decide for themselves whether Vista is a POS good or bad. They show participants Vista, but tell them that it is a new Windows operating system called Mojave. They give their comments, and then they are told that it is actually Vista.

Without commenting on Vista at all, I would like to mention how surprised I am by the results. Microsoft say the people that participated were the following:

  • 84% Windows XP users
  • 22% Apple operating system users
  • 14% Pre-Windows XP users
  • 1% Linux users
  • Some users use multiple platforms.

The thing I find shocking is that apparently none of their participants could tell that it was Windows Vista. I do not use Vista on a daily basis – in fact, I have only used it a few times, but I can recognise it from a mile away. Did they ask any computer professionals at all – people who use computers every day for their jobs? Even before I used Vista, I would have easily recognised it from all the publicity I saw online.

Here are some funny video responses (typed exactly as spoken):

“Like if it’s um up against other systems, um like a Mac system, or something, you know what I mean, like, if you were deciding between the two, I would say that this one has um probably the <pause> best new features that I’ve seen.”

“I’m not a’git thedl git the the book out and read 77 pages to figure out how to do it. I just want to be able to look at it, read it.”

“There’s something I have to tell you now – there actually is no Mojave.”
“Oh? OK.”
“What I’ve just shown you – or John’s just shown you – is actually Windows Vista.”
“Oh, really? See how much I knew – nothing.”

I don’t really have much faith in a marketing exercise that puts the respondents in the same room as multiple Microsoft employees where they may feel pressured (perhaps out of kindness) to give a positive review.

New Hard Drive

Tonight my Mac reported that it was out of hard drive space, just minutes after I checked and was told there was approx 4GB free. I am not sure what happened, but it dropped to zero and then went back up to 3GB free a few minutes later. I was scanning in some receipts and reading email via a webmail account and nothing else when the web browser froze (Safari) and I started getting odd errors from the scanning app.

I have been holding off on upgrading my 100GB 7200rpm drive (the largest in that speed that you could buy in early 2006) in case Apple announced new Macbooks with Blu-Ray drives, but I finally had to buy one.

I settled on a 320GB 7200rpm Western Digital drive… for the killer price of $94 (plus $6 shipping). Amazing price. I just hope the drive turns out to be a good one.

In other news, I am ill for the second time this year – yet another mystery cold type illness. I also went to Scott’s sister’s wedding this weekend and had great fun – I took some great photos and spoke to one of the photographers for a long time, who convinced me to spend many thousands on a pro lens (well, when I save up for it).

Home Security

Following on from my “boredom” post, here’s something that has been keeping me busy for a while. I have a home server called Frankenputer, and it runs a package called Zoneminder along with the web server.

Connected to it I have two black & white outdoor cameras (el cheapo $30 things from Harbor Freight) and one indoor colour wired ethernet camera. The outdoor cameras are connected via very long cables to individual video capture cards in the server. The problem I am having right now is that the picture quality at daytime is fairly noisy:

At night though, it’s plainly crap:

Zoneminder is also fairly terrible at motion detection, requiring a very clean image to work with, and very precise fiddling with “blob counts” and other non-intuitive variables. If I connect either of the cameras to a proper TV, there is absolutely no interference, leading me to believe that the interference is being generated inside the server. However, if I connect a closer source of video to the server (such as a VCR), the picture is also perfect! I think what is happening is that the long run of camera cable (100 feet) is causing the composite video voltage levels to drop, and interference in the server is becoming more noticeable. Any hints would be appreciated though.

I am wondering whether to retire Frankenputer and get a new motherboard, CPU and memory, or to get ethernet cameras all around. Here’s a snap from the ethernet camera:

What is Boredom?

Is boredom a good thing or a bad thing? I used to view it as being a bad thing, but now I see it as essential time to relax when you can’t think of anything else you could possibly do at that moment in time. When people are bored, they catch up on TV, clear out the email inbox, and potter around the house. It helps rest your brain from the day’s work and allows you to do those little things you wouldn’t normally have time for. If you’re really bored, you might not even have anything remotely interesting to do and may take a nap!

I have noticed that for perhaps the last four and a half years (since I graduated) that I have had absolutely no moment when I could say I was bored. I have always had something I needed to do, something nagging me at the back of my mind to finish.

New Car

For reasons related to my life, I am not permitted to call my car “my other love”. So, I will just say that last week I said goodbye to my Lancer Evo VIII, and picked up a Lancer Evo X MR. Goodbye, faithful old car!

Hello, new:

The new car has a 6-speed sequential gearbox, which is technically a manual, but it has three automatic modes. In sport and s-sport, the car will downshift in anticipation of a corner and blip the throttle, similar to how racing drivers do heel-toe braking (that is, pressing the clutch and brake with the same foot). It also has S-AWC (super all-wheel-control), which is an evolution of the previous stability enhancement device that has been a part of the non-US Evos for a number of years. This version will actually kick out the back end of the car during a turn if understeer is detected in order to push the car to the centre of the corner!

Edmunds recently reviewed the Evo against the Nissan GT-R, Audi R8, new Porsche 911, new Elise and 2008 STi, and the Evo surprisingly flattened the $80,000 911 around a test track and mountain road. Only 2 seconds behind the R8, with some minor performance upgrades it would beat all of the cars in the test.

The car also has an altimeter, for when it is flying.


For the last few weeks I’ve been building a deck. My “bible” is the Home Depot Decks 1-2-3 book, which does a fairly good job of explaining how to build a deck to someone with reasonable carpentry skills.

This is actually only my second carpentry project – the first being some shelves in the garage.

If there’s anything I have learned, it’s the following:

  1. Don’t be afraid to buy the right tools.
  2. You will need at least two drills (corded and cordless). You will need a cordless one for difficult areas, and a corded one for the screw that won’t go in or the hole that won’t appear.
  3. You always need more screws/nails.
  4. Measure twice, cut once.
  5. Your posts will try to sink to the centre of the earth. There is nothing you can do to stop it, so you may as well make the posts stick further out of the ground in anticipation.
  6. If you are British, get some SPF-50 and a hat.

England Trip

I was given orders to take a week off, so I decided to see my family in England. So far I have gone for a bike ride and slightly cheated because I rode an electric bike, which helps you up hills. It was a lot of fun, and really fast! I also found some trolls at a nearby pub and a duck crossing sign.

More pics to come soon!