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USB CueCat
hardware : by Tommy - September 18th 2008, 10:51PM
hardware
Years and years ago, Radio Shack launched their CueCat scanner technology. I won't go into the history of this terrible business plan, but needless to say the idea took off like a lead balloon. You can get the brief history of the failed device on wikipedia. Sometime later, probably around 2002 or 2003 I purchased a PS/2 model of the fabled barcode scanner, a scanner that I still have. I never really used it though.

Recently I purchased a USB model of the CueCat. I had no idea USB models were ever available, but I found plenty of online sources selling them. I bought mine from mavin.com. I just got it in the mail this afternoon and was able to "declaw" the cuecat in about a minute. The process of declawing is simple enough and, in short, it allows the cuecat to output only the barcode information in plain text (versus an obfuscated and "proprietary" format). After declawing I can now use the cat to scan any barcode. I hope to use it for cataloging any books I own, as well as selling used textbooks online after each semester.

Grendel sez: Neat, but otherwise useless, I've learned that Google will take UPC numbers and link to various UPC databases to tell you about the item you just scanned. Interesting.

update: 10/30 - Apparently the patent for :Cuecat was still outstanding until recently.

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

 
New Motherboard Time
hardware : by Tommy - August 21st 2008, 11:29PM
hardware
BREAKING NEWS: My "slammin' setup" from 2 years ago has finally burned out the chipset fan on the motherboard. I gotta say, I've been extremely pleased with it since I bought it. Now, unexpectedly, it's time for an upgrade. Really, all I need is a new fan for the old motherboard, but a new motherboard and CPU wouldn't hurt.

Since I've been out of the hardware scene for a while, I'll open up discussion on what's hot now. Remember, I'm not a fan of "bleeding edge", I'm looking for best bang for the buck.

Update: Ok, so I didn't go the performance route, but I think I got a modest computer setup. Maintaining about the same performance before the motherboard went out. I found a deal on a dual-core AMD Athlon X2 Brisbane for $30 shipped, so I decided to bump up the CPU a tad. I went cheap on the motherboard because, frankly, I don't need a whole lot. I settled on the Asus M2N-MX. Because my old RAM wouldn't work on new boards, I got 2Gb of OCZ DDR1066. The machine is functioning again, all systems are go and I'm back online at my regularly scheduled times. Thanks for all of the suggestions. I'll prob be ready to upgrade this "value" setup in a year or so.
(total spent: ~$130)

( Comments : 9 | Full article )

 
Wii : Homebrew
games : by Tommy - August 20th 2008, 09:34PM
games
After reading about the Homebrew Channel for a modified Wii, I was intrigued. In the past I've run linux on a Playstation, soldered modchips into countless Xbox consoles and had quite a blast adding and updating various scripts for the Xbox. I wondered what the Wii could be capable of.

At present there are only a handful of "homebrew" apps you can use on a Wii, but this didn't stop me. The future for Wii homebrew looks bright and it looked so easy I just had to give it a try. I visited the Homebrew Channel homepage which is literally a one-stop shop for modifying a Wii console. All you need is a spare SD card (I used a 2Gb card) and a copy of Zelda: Twilight Princess (I had a free rental credit). In almost no time at all I had the Homebrew Channel (HBC) installed and was quickly accessing homebrew apps.

A video of the Twilight Hack is here and the Homebrew Channel is here.

Currently the most promising app is ScummVM. Many of the supported games I haven't played and those that I have played, I haven't touched in at least 10 years. They were truly groundbreaking titles for the PC gaming industry. Full Throttle, Loom, Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island - the big ones. Now, I can continue to play the point-click interface with the Wii controller. Perhaps an official re-release is in order for some old LucasArts games.

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

 
They're Baaaack
news : by Tommy - July 14th 2008, 11:16AM
news
Wow. Quite the trip. We didn't experience almost any bad weather the entire trip. It never really rained on us while we were camping. No real vehicular problems. No sickness. All was well.

Almost every night we were camping in the mountains so the air was nice and cool at night. We stayed a week in Flagstaff with Corey and his fiance, Misty, taking countless day trips to the surrounding National Parks and attractions. After we parted ways Jennifer and I continued tent camping all the way back home with the exception of a few nights in hotels when the weather wasn't going to cooperate (too hot, potential storms) or we just plain needed a break and some running water. (Most national parks don't offer showers of any kind.) Our biggest accomplishment, aside from actually surviving the trip without problems, was climbing Guadalupe Peak, it was probably one of the tougher things either of us had done, but it was a great feeling of accomplishment when we finished.
We camped at over 8000ft after climbing 3mi and 3000ft with our 25-30lb packs to the campsite. We climbed the final mile to the summit the next morning before packing up and climbing down.

We also visited Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, the McDonald Observatory, Big Bend, family in Austin and Baytown, and managed to meet up with my brother before he leaves for Ranger School next week.

We just got back last night, so I'll have some pictures to post this afternoon sometime.

For now, here's our route. We kept a journal of things we did each day, kept a list of wildlife seen along the way, and logged gas mileage. My car did excellent - averaging around 35 mpg. I was pleased, but it's time for another oil change!

Continue reading...

tags: camping road_trip

( Comments : 2 | Full article )

 
Desert Voyage 2008
neodux : by Tommy - June 18th 2008, 08:03AM
neodux
Well, the time has arrived. Jennifer and I are loaded up and will start heading toward Flagstaff, Arizona today. We'll be stopping at Palo Duro Canyon along the way, then we'll stop by Bluewater Lake State Park near Continental Divide, NM. The next day we'll push on to the cabin we've reserved with Corey (Mackieman). We'll kick it old skool for a week and visit the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, one of the nation's largest observatories, Petrified Forrest and other notoable locations.

After Flagstaff and seeing all the sites within sane driving distance, Jennifer and I will drive south to Summerhaven, AZ atop Mt. Lemmon where we'll meet up with the Tucson Amateur Radio Club for the annual ARRL Field Day.

After Mt. Lemmon, we'll head west into New Mexico to stay at Aguirre Springs near Las Cruces, NM. The next day we'll head to Alamogordo to see the dunes at White Sands and visit Cloudcroft before driving on to Carlsbad to see the giant caverns and bazillions of bats. whew! still not done...

We'll attempt to climb Guadalupe Peak (highest point in Texas) after we've crossed back into Texas, then drive down to Fort Davis to see UT's big observatory there and swim at nearby Balmorhea Springs swimming pool. At that point we'll be at a crossroads as to whether or not we want to try to go south to Big Bend for one last grand view or head back to Longview by way of Enchanted Rock.

I'd hotlink all of these locations, but that'd take forever and you know how to use Google.
I'll check in periodically whenever I get wifi, now that the world has our literary you'll know where to see search parties...

Grendel sez: See you soon Mackieman, good day!

tags: camping road_trip

( Comments : 3 | Full article )

 
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