Thursday, September 29, 2011


I'm realizing that my blog is redundant now that I'm using Google+.  I recommend if you are following my blog, please go to my Google+ profile and follow me there.

I may come back to the blog, but for now it just doesn't make sense to use both.

I should note that I will be keeping the blog up for as long as Google/Blogger allows, there is a lot of history on this blog and I'd hate to just throw it away.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Removing a NULL from the Results Grid

Here is my scenario. (Yours may very, but when I tried to find help on this issue I found the specifics difficult to locate.)
I had written a query in Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio 2008 to create a data file to be imported via a custom app.  The reason for this is that the new data repository requires the data to be input using it's specific tools.  There are a number of apps like this.

Prior to working in MS SQL I had begun the project in Access. The project was simpler then and there was a chance that some of my coworkers, who didn't have SQL Server, might need to access it.  When exporting my data from Access the NULL values exported as blanks in my spreadsheet.  This is exactly what I needed.

After migrating to MS SQL though the NULLs show up as NULL in the spreadsheet.  This caused a lot of havoc to the import program.  I could have had the programmer change the program to deal with the NULLs, and I may for the next version, we are too far along in the testing phase to change that now.

So, here is the part you have been waiting for, how do you get rid of the NULL values in a SQL export?

Your needs may vary but, use:
Where column_name is the name of the data column you are checking and replacement_value is what you want in the field instead of "NULL" 
In my case my replacement_value was simply: '' (two single quotes)  I didn't want any value in the field, not a space, not a "NULL", nothing.  While NULL IS nothing to MS SQL, to a CSV file, NULL and '' are the same. Since I am exporting to CSV, I need the '' rather than the NULL.

This may be elementary for some SQL query writers out there, it was important for me to find and use. Unfortunately there was little to point me in the right direction.  My hope is that this post will save others who are running into this issue some time.

If you are a SQL guru and there is an even better way to address this problem, please leave a comment below and I'll edit as necessary.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Google+ Status Report

This is my last post about Google+ for awhile, promise.

I experimented using only Google+ for a week.  I stayed off Twitter the entire time. I didn't even read it.  I wanted to see if Google+ could replace Twitter for me.  What I found was that too many people have not really migrated to G+.  They may not ever.

It's not Twitter. The posting people put up are long form and encourage long comments.  In a way it's almost like Google took Blogger and then added circles, but then removed all the formatting. So there, I said it, G+ is just a weak Blogger with some social functions added.

Google has had most of these features in it's various products for a long time. It just took Circles to bring them together.  I don't think that's a bad thing and if you are a long time Google user this brings the tools together cohesively.  What about for everyone else?

Microsoft has a lot of these same features in it's Live environment but you don't hear about it much do you?  Does what G+ do really all that much more compelling that it's going to draw large numbers of Facebook and Twitter users away?  Right now I have to say no.  

That doesn't mean that there aren't users who have dived into G+.  I would put myself in that camp.  It also doesn't mean that G+ is a failure or that we won't see more awesome features added.  I'm sure Gmail looked weak compared to other webmail services when it first came out too. 

So for now Twitter will still exist for me.  It doesn't try to do a million things.  What it does it does well.  What it doesn't do G+ will pick-up nicely.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Google+ vs. everything else

Since Google+ has come put I've been trying to figure out where it sits in my Internet usage world.  I never used Facebook so that's out of the equation.  I do use Twitter and Blogger (obviously) though.  I'm trying to go without any Twitter all this week to see if Google+ can fill that void.  We'll see. G+ isn't quite as far along as Twitter so there are still a lot more people missing.

Blogger is another question mark.  Google+ is setup to protect your posts if you wish, so I could write something for family only and they would be the only ones able to see it.  That's pretty cool.  On the other hand many of my blog posts are written for the world to see.  Google+ allows for this as well, but is it as easy?

Additionally Blogger has additional formatting options that Google+ doesnt have (yet).

I already know one person who has given up everything for Google+. I commend his commitment. I suspect that for the time being that I'll continue to use all three services, but Twitter and Blogger could be in trouble.  It just depends on where Google+ goes in the future.

Here is my Google+ profile:

Monday, August 08, 2011

Samsung BD-D5700 Blu-ray player

This weekend we bought a Samsung BD-D5700 Blu-ray player.  So far I've been pretty happy with it.  The online reviews are kinda mixed though.  It seems like most that are rating it poorly have defective units though.  No issues of that sort with ours but it's only been a couple days.

Our TV is only 720p, but I still see a good improvement in image quality. I only had one movie to test with though. We have the TRON Legacy combo pack so I could try each movie and see the differences.  It was a bit subtle, but there.

The load times of the BR vs the DVD were noticeably longer, but not terrible. It was something I was expecting too.  Though without a reference point I can't say if those BR load times are slower, faster, or normal.

I've not tried any of the streaming video options (Hulu+, Netflix, Blockbuster) just because we are not members of any of those services.  That's partly due to me being a A/V quality snob, but mostly because there has been so much shake-up in availability that you pretty much can't stick to just one for everything and even with all of them there is still a lot of content that isn't available streaming.  That said, now that we have the interfaces, we now have the opportunity to try them.

So far the biggest feature we've used is the digital media streaming (DLNA) from my PC and USB thumb drive.  They both use the same interface and it's pretty straight forward.  The image quality was really nice. Part of that is the source material but I think it's doing it's best to upconvert the lower resolution videos too.  It supported all but some MOV files. I can live with that.

The one weird thing was that occasionally the DLNA video stream would get slightly out of sync.  We thought it was my computer going to sleep or something but that didnt appear to be the problem. The first time it happened was about 12 minutes into a video.  The next time it was 14 minutes...but we'd been watching nearly 3 hours of video from the same source.  Both times I switched to the thumb drive and it worked fine from there.

I had copied the media to the thumb drive first because I didn't know about the DLNA option. Even when I did I was worried that the WiFi connection might not be strong enough.  It was a backup.

Another oddity that I never did figure out. The video via the network wouldn't allow me to fast forward.  Via the USB it wasn't a problem.  Is this something in the way DLNA streams the video? It was kinda a pain.

So, thus far I'm pleased with the purchase. It's a nice machine, especially for the money.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Government Spending

2010 US Spending:

So we want the government to do all kinds of things for us. All kinds of great services. And there isn't anything wrong with that, but how are they going to be paid for? The middle and lower classes are paying a lot and keep paying more due to raising food and fuel prices. Additional taxes keep being tacked on by local/state governments to help pay for their deficits.

Pretty soon we simple wont have the money left to pay for anything. Who pays then? Businesses? The Wealthy? Every time someone suggests they should pay more we hear, "Why are you wanting to punish their success?" and "If you tax us we can't create more jobs" or "They'll just pass the costs to the consumers"

So again I ask...who is going to pay for our government?

We can reduce spending on the military and social security sure. Both those take a huge chunk of our tax dollars but who has the guts to try to do that? Career politicians sure aren't going to do that. They'd lose too many votes!

I fear we are in a downward spiral...and I'm an optimist normally.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

San Diego Comic Con 2011, Pt 3

The Amazing Spider-Man. I wonder if he got tired hanging around for four days.
Movies are frequently a part of the Comic-Con experience now, for better or worse. Part of me wanted to get into the Hall H Friday to see the movie panels, it would have been a very long line to wait in and I would have been in there all day. Not that it would be so bad, but these movie sneak peaks are always posted to the Internet shortly after they are shown at Comic-Con so I didn't personally see the value in sitting there all day.

The movies they were teasing were:

Captain America was also being marketed with a large banner being pulled by a plane overhead. The first time I noticed it I was standing outside waiting in line. I had to laugh and said to my line neighbors, "Given the demographic here at Comic-Con isn't that a bit like preaching to the choir? It's not like I saw that banner and thought, 'OMG! I had no idea there was a Captain America movie coming out this week!'"

The Cowboys and Aliens marketing was a bit cooler.  Jon Favreau tweeted earlier in the week about some 'gold bars' that would be given out at different locations around Comic-Con that might get you into the Premier, which they chose to do in San Diego as part of Comic-Con.  That was pretty cool. I didnt manage to get a 'brick', which was a small card board box. I saw some that did. None that won, but they got t-shirts. Decent marketing. A few hundred got tickets to the movie premier.

There were other movie's trying to make their presence known as well. The next Twilight movie as well as what will likely be a craptacular movie, Shark Night 3D. Though the Shark Night people did have a cool mechanical shark you could ride, as you would a mechanical bull.

While there WAS a large Avengers booth on the show floor, there was no sneak peaks at the Avengers movie, though I heard Chris Evans was around. There wasn't a panel or anything official shown.

Lucas Films was heavily promoting both the Clone Wars season 4 and the upcoming release of the Star Wars movies on Blu-Ray. Lucas even partnered up with Volkswagen to create an Imperial Jetta. I still don't like the new Jetta design but adding Star Wars helps a bit. 
Yes I am sun burned.

I'm sure I'm missing some smaller movies, but well they didnt hit my radar. Below are some pictures:

Total Recall robot (?) and car.

Another robot (maybe it's a suit), a bit more close-up.

Almost thought they gave up on Ghost Rider until we saw this.

San Diego Comic Con 2011, Pt 2

Comic-Con offers more than just celebrity sighting and standing in lines. The show floor is huge and full of interesting things to see:

  • Artist's Alley - where you can see artists drawing and selling artwork.
  • Independent Publishers - Not all comics are created by the big boys. There were a lot of smaller publishers or independents that were hocking their wares.
  • T-Shirts - The selection wasn't quite as grand as I'd hoped but there were a lot of geeky t-shirts and sweat-shirts to be found, reasonably priced. I think there were only a couple vendors, if that though. It would have been nice to see more variety.
  • High quality collectibles - These aren't cheaply made novelties, these are often movie quality replicas. There were masks, busts, jackets, from famous movies/TV like Star Wars and Star Trek. Many high quality sculptures as well. These aren't toys but premium collectibles for the super-fan.
  • Toys - The toy companies came out in force. LEGO and Hasbro were definitely in the fore-front.  If you were interested in comic book based action figures, this was the place to be.
  • Comics - Well of course there are going to be comics for sale at a comic book convention (though it could be argued that it's really not a comic book convention any more). The comic book vendors were all at one end of the show floor. It really seemed like a lesser part of the conference though. Not sure if that is due to the evolution of Comic-Con to more of a Pop Culture-Con or if it's indicative of the changes in comics in general. Most of the comics available for sale were pre-90's or the graphic novel/collections. I have to wonder if the digital comic is dooming the printed comic.
  • Misc. Vendors - There were vendors of all types scattered here and there selling a little bit of everything. Some were very specific, others not so much.  Deals can be made, but don't expect a steal.
Sunday is a good day to buy comics.  Most of the comic-book sellers would prefer not to haul all their comics back home.  I also suspect that many of these vendors bring down their excess inventory to dump it. There were quite a few vendors offering to sell multiple comics from specific boxes for a small dollar amount. I ended up picking up 20 comics for $5. Not a bad deal. Most were probably only worth the 25 cents I paid but I was looking for things I had not read before or holes in my collection. At this point in my comic collecting life I'm more interested in filling voids in my collection, rather than trying to collect 'valuable' comics.

I did pay a bit more to buy some older Uncanny X-Men though. That is one title I'd like to one day have complete, at least up to the mid-nineties when I stopped buying them. But with X-Men #1 running around $1500 that might be awhile. I'll just have to settle with my reprints for now.

We also picked up a few t-shirts. Melody had more luck here than me. She found some great Doctor Who shirts. We also picked up the 'exclusive' t-shirt for 2011 Comic-Con. It's actually pretty cool with Godzilla and Mothera destroying the convention center.

We also picked up:
  • A Star Wars cook book - it's made for kids, but still pretty awesome
  • The Doctor Who Christmas Adventure set - includes a Matt Smith (11th) Doctor and Amy Pond action figure as well as a light-up Tardis with opening doors.
  • An exclusive LEGO item (for a friend)
  • And various swag, including
    • Yoda face fans/masks
    • Hellboy mask
    • American Dad/Family Guy pins

We really didn't buy a lot of stuff. For me it was mostly because, with the exception of the exclusives and swag, you could buy pretty much all of this stuff online. Why carry and ship a bunch of stuff around that you could buy any time?  That's probably why the lines for the exclusives are so long.

Some booths were also showing off proto-types or not yet released items, so this was your first opportunity to see them and await their arrival at stores.

More images:
Marvel Action Figures
Lara Croft collectible

Captain Jack Sparrow - life size made of LEGO

Saturday, July 30, 2011

San Diego Comic Con 2011, Pt 1

Ah Comic-Con, the time of the year when geeks and nerds loose their minds and stand in lines for hours for the chance to see their favorite TV/movie/comic stars or stand in line for less than hours but still a long time for the chance to buy some limited edition collectible or toy.

This was my first year. I've been hearing for years how cool it was and I thought I needed to do it at least once in my life.  So that bucket list item is now complete.

My first paragraph may sound a bit snarky, but that's because it is. I wouldn't say I hated Comic-Con but it's not the Nerdvana that I thought it would be.  I read the blogs and 'how to survive Comic-Con' guides, but they simply cannot prepare you.

That said, here are my tips for anyone thinking about going in the future:

This wasn't even the half way point. There were about 2500 people ahead of us at this point.
  1. Be prepared to stand in line. Lots of guides will tell you that but you stand in line for everything! You stand in line to get your badges. If you don't stay right next to the conference center, you will stand in line to get on the shuttle to get to the conference (and to get back on to go to your hotel later). You'll stand in line, often for hours, to see ANY panel. During the panels you may get 'swag' tickets; you have to stand in line to redeem those tickets. You'll stand in line to buy most of the items on the show floor. You'll stand in line for food. You'll stand in line for the bathroom. These are not exaggerations. If you hate standing in line, you will hate Comic-Con.

    If I ever go again I will bring a folding stool. Even then you will still be on your feet a lot. The lines move, but slowly, so you need to be able to move quickly. You will not be able to sit on the floor. In many cases you may not be allowed, be it by security or simply because the line keeps inching forward.
  2. Have a good bag. You will get large swag bags when you pick up your badge but they are large and unwieldy. You'll notice that veteran attendees will have nice multi-use back packs.  That said, there are posters, art, comics, toys, clothes and other items that you'll want to be able to carry around safely. Back packs are good for some but not all of these things. Most vendors will only have plastic bags (the grocery type). These not only get tiresome to carry after awhile, but pointy cornered boxes and comics will start to work their way through the bags.  If you buy posters or art you'll want a protective tube. Some vendors will sell these but the artists probably wont have anything like that so be prepared.

    You'll also want to carry provisions; water & snacks. Water is expensive at events like these. Why spend $4-6 for a bottle of water when you can find a store and buy a whole case of water bottles for half that. Same goes for snacks. Standing in line for hours you may need a pick me up. Sure you can buy pretzels and nachos or cookies, but unless you have a line buddy you may be stuck.
There are many other smaller tips I could give but those two are pretty big and worth sharing.

The first day was overwhelming. The show floor was PACKED. I pretty much just rode the wave of people trying to absorb as much as I could. I came away from day one wonder what the hell I had got myself into.

Day two was much better. We had a plan of attack and it went smoother.  The realization that you had to get in line for a room early and pretty much stay there until you had seen the panel you were interested in was an important one.  You can't just show up 10-15 minutes before a scheduled event and expect to get in. Even the obscure ones might be full because people are filling the rooms early for the next panel or two.

That was something that I still am not sure I like. The rooms are not cleared between panels, so you could sit in the same chair all day if you so desired.  So again, you have to plan ahead. If you think your panel is going to be popular, you have to get into your room early or risk not being able to get in.  We were lucky in that every panel we got in line for we were able to attend, but others were not so lucky. The very popular rooms had lines that were up to 6000 long (again, no exaggeration). The rooms aren't that big so some people simply didnt get in. And since the rooms are not cleared between panels, it's possible only a few hundred or so may be able to get in after each panel, depending on the subjects.

You will get to see celebrities, but don't expect to get to talk to them. You can go to signings, but they are scheduled also and just as difficult to get. We didn't even try these. In the panels, depending on the size of the room you may be a few feet to so far they have to project the panel members onto projection screens. On the show floor or even milling about outside you may see more. Here is who I saw:
  • Hulk Hogan
  • Lou Ferrigno
  • Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca)
  • Adam Sessler (G4 TV host)
  • Seth Green
  • Allison Scagliotti (Claudia, Warehouse 13, Syfy Channel)
  • The cast of Fringe
  • The cast of American Dad
  • The cast of Family Guy
  • Doc Hammer, Jackson Publick, and James Urbaniak from the Venture Brothers
  • LL Cool J
  • The hosts of the Totally Rad Show (Alex, Jeff, & Dan)
Alex Albrecht and Dan Trachtenberg of the Totally Rad Show

There were probably lots of others that I didnt recognize. There were a lot more celebs there mingling with the crowds too. Celebrity spotting is definitely a fun part of Comic-Con.
Hulk Hogan

More to come... In the meantime, here are some more celeb, pictures.

From The Venture Brothers,  left to right: Jackson Publick, Doc Hammer, and James Urbaniak
From Family Guy,  left to right: Mike Henry, Patrick Warburton, and Alex Borstein
From Fringe, Joshua Jackson and John Noble

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Can Google+ work for me?

I should start this with saying that I've only been reading about Google+. I do not currently have access to it.

I'm a heavy Google user.  I use many of their products. I like the integration and I like how their tools work for the most part (Google Docs is still a bit clunky).  So I'd be a prime candidate for Google+, their new social network, right?

Well the problem is that I don't have that many friends/associates that are using Google products that much.  A few sure, but it makes me wonder how is Google going to get people to migrate from Facebook and/or Twitter?  I don't use Facebook but I know only a few of the people I know who use Facebook will check out Google+, much less put any serious thought into switching.  I say switch because, how many people are going to maintain both?  Twitter and Facebook are different enough that they can have some cross over customers, but will Google+ have that?  Would people put up with three social networks?

It's way too early to say but Google will have to pull out some big guns to draw users away from Facebook and Twitter, or have some really awesome technology that allows it to live side by side with them.  I'm not saying it can't be done or won't happen, but I'm not holding my breath.

In the meantime I anxiously await my invite so I can evaluate it for myself.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thought Exercise: Multi-Dimensional Being

I had an interesting thought while pondering one of the many oddities of String Theory or M Theory. The particular topic I was thinking about is the idea that there are more dimensions to our universe than we can perceive. We are four dimensional beings (length, width, height, time). But theoretically the universe has 10 or more dimensions.

If a sphere is seen from only two dimensions we see a circle. It's size dependent on where the slice is taken. If we couldn't perceive the third dimension there would be a great deal of information about that sphere we'd completely miss out on.

So imagine for a moment how much we may be missing out on if there are 10 or more dimensions. We ponder life and death. What our role in the world is. Is there more? Is there a greater purpose. Is there a God? What if by exploring those other dimensions we could answer those questions?

What if all humans are connected in those dimensions? An invisible thread that ties us all together as one being. What if all life if is tied together like that?  What if all we are, are the arm hairs of a multi-dimensional being. We are just too primitive to see beyond our limits.  But we glimpse the greater. This is telepathy, magic, and God. It's the greater part of us that we have faith is there but have no way of knowing.

I have no proof of any of this, but science is opening doors that we didn't even know existed that long ago. Ignorance may be bliss but knowledge is awesome.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Web Browsers in the Enterprise

When Mozilla said, "Enterprise has never been--and I'll argue, shouldn't be--a focus of ours" I was shocked that they publicly stated that, but not surprised that is their stance.

Internet Explorer (IE) is easily the defacto web browser in the business and likely will be for some time.  Microsoft owns that space pretty handily.  Yes, there are those small companies that have migrated successfully to Firefox or Chrome or others, but they are the exception, not the rule.  We are talking Enterprise.  These are the companies with thousands of employees with many custom or customized internal applications.  These applications don't get updated quickly. It can take months or even years to upgrade to new versions.  Even patches have to be rigorously tested and QAed before being rolled out.  Especially if those apps are mission critical.

For Mozilla to say that Firefox isn't designed with the Enterprise in mind gives them the ability to remain flexible and aggressive with their development strategies.  Enterprise's need and are large enough typically to demand long term development cycles, so they can plan accordingly.  Sometimes Enterprise-time and Internet-time are not compatible.  For Mozilla to focus on Internet-time is probably wise from their development strategy, but I think it can be easily argued that perhaps they shouldn't have made the statement they did.

Enterprise IT not only wants to keep things standardized but often NEEDS to.  When you are supporting thousands of PCs, supporting multiple web browsers, with multiple versions, with different plug-ins would be a nightmare.  Supporting IE, especially a single version, simplifies support.  Errors and bugs can be managed. Application customizations can be handled.  From the IT perspective, the more everyone's PCs are the same, the easier it is to support them and deploy fixes/patches equally throughout the enterprise.

Even IE isn't immune from being rolled out slowly.  My company is currently on IE8, which is probably better than some companies, but IE9 just came out and we are not compatible with it yet.  Patches are coming to fix that, but this is something that Enterprises have to deal with. When it's one browser, it can be managed. When it's multiple browsers, it becomes a lot less manageable, especially when they have radically different release time frames.

Mozilla just began a more aggressive release schedule. Chrome has always been very aggressive.  Enterprise IT departments can't keep up, so they standardize on one (normally IE).

Standardization is a word that could change this, in time.  For a long time Internet Explorer, because of it's market dominance, included a lot of Microsoft-only code that rendered websites a very particular way or included scripting/tools that were unique to Internet Explorer.  Because of the dominance of IE Enterprise software companies and the Enterprises themselves coded their applications for Internet Explorer.  A lot of that code still exists.  Enterprises don't just change things because the Internet says it's obsolete. There has to be a business case for making the change.  In the case of our company, the software we use has an external customer component.  IT can dictate what we use internally, but they cannot control the customer, so we have to keep on top of these changes as best we can.  IE isn't always the browser of choice any more.

IE has lost the dominance it once had in the market, as a whole.  It's still very important, but it no longer commands 90% of the market.  Microsoft has since started making Internet Explorer much more standards (web standards) compliant.  As has it's competition, Mozilla and Google.  They are all trying to one-up one another in becoming the most HTML5 compliant as possible.  The HTML rendering engines, for the most part, are what make the various browsers behave differently when rendering a web page.

With all the web browsers moving towards HTML5, could we finally get to a point where it wouldn't matter which web browser you used?  I think we are a few years, at best, for that happening.  Outside the Enterprise I believe this reality is much closer, but in the Enterprise it simply takes businesses a lot longer to migrate to the cutting edge technology.  Their focus is on their customers, not on their internal staff.  There are still lots of companies running Windows XP.  Internet Explorer 9 won't run on Windows XP, so those companies will have to do major, and expensive, upgrades before they can change their web browsers. Most will wait until they absolutely HAVE to. It's just the nature of the Enterprise.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What was ABC News thinking: Rich Kid Fashion Story

This morning I watched an ABC News report about kids fashion clothes.  I found this obscene. Not because the kids were dressed sexually or anything, though it was very bizarre to see such young kids strutting up and down the cat-walk.

No, my issue with this is, that at a time when so many people are struggling to find jobs and put food on the table much less buy clothes for their kids, the wealthy are buying $500+ per item clothes for their kids. Not just expensive, but designer clothes.

I'm sure this has been going on since always, but to put it on the morning news, as if it's really news?  It's just rubbing our faces in the fact that we aren't as rich as them.  They even had a poor mother on there saying how she had to buy her kids clothes at a thrift store, as I know my parents had to do for my siblings and I when we were kids.

Is ABC trying to incite a riot against the rich? Did they think it was cute?  Were they catering to their wealthy viewers?  Maybe they are just out of touch with what the rest of the country goes through sitting in NYC?

I don't hold it against the Bourgeoisie for being wealthy. I wish I was wealthy enough to not have to stress about bills, putting food on the table, etc.  However, when they gloat or rub it in the faces of the rest of us, it's not just rude, it's obscene.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What If...Microsoft killed off gaming on the PC

This is an unlikely scenario but one that is kinda fun to think about.  First, PC gaming might as well be called Windows Gaming.  Sure there are Mac and Linux games out there, but the primary market is Windows users.  Second, Microsoft created DirectX and it's competitors, specifically OpenGL, while not dead really have never done as well as DirectX.  Third, Microsoft seems to be pushing Windows 8 in to the HTML5, web scripting world. It's unlikely that the power language support will be removed, but for the sake of this thought experiment, lets assume that Windows 8 doesn't play games as well as past versions.

In all three of those situations there are weaknesses, but lets assume the worst case scenarios.

Microsoft own Xbox.  They own Windows.  What if a business decision was made to make Windows more of a web based OS, focusing on what a majority of computers are doing these days, email, web, social networking.  Microsoft could argue that removing the power to do gaming on the PC would drive more business to the Xbox market because those power gamers would want the better gaming experience.  DirectX would still be developed, but just for the Xbox.

One argument is that the Xbox is basically a computer already so why limit the development environment to just Xbox?  Because PCs are loosing relevance.  Outside the business a PC is mostly used for web related items.  Yes, there are power users and there will always be a niche for them, but the average home PC user has limited need.  Outside of gaming, I use Chrome and iTunes primarily, occasionally opening up Word, Excel, or Photoshop.  Since I don't usually do power image editing, I can say that I could probably do most of my work with HTML5 apps, that in theory would work great on Windows 8.  The gaming is what keeps me using a big powerful PC.  Microsoft hasn't yet convinced me to buy an Xbox 360 and migrate. So what if they pushed me?

Sure I could stay on Windows 7 for years, just as so many have stuck with Windows XP.  But if Microsoft is no longer supporting gaming on Windows, the game publishers would quickly stop developing games for those older platforms.  I'd guess within a year most marque gaming titles would be on consoles exclusively.  So to play that cool new game I'd have no choice but to buy a console.

Those power users are what could keep things from going this way.  Graphics card makers and premium PC makers would certainly have some incentive to keep the PC gaming market going.  There are also going to be those users who don't want to give up the power they currently have.  Would the market perhaps shift to Linux?  Maybe, but we've seen time and time again projects that are in the Windows world not being able to migrate to Linux. I doubt it's technical. Business reasons have to be getting in the way. Those business reasons aren't going to just disappear.  Is the power user/PC gamer market large enough to move to a new OS platform?

PC games are still the best looking and most powerful.  There are still certain types of games that don't translate well to consoles.  But the writing has been on the wall for a long time; PC gaming is dying.  That could either mean that it's just like the doom-sayers who keep predicting the world will end and it never does.  Or, the end could really just be right around the corner and we are simply in denial.

I for one will keep gaming on the PC until I can't any longer.  The current console wiz-bang features still aren't compelling enough to make me fly into their arms.  I've right on as the average gamer.  So what can Microsoft do to make me move to the Xbox, except kill PC gaming.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Cloud Music Services

Now that Apple has joined Google and Amazon with it's "cloud" music service, I feel it's time to ask a question that has been bugging me since this all started, "Why?"

I'm sure there are some people that will find this solution perfect for them, but why?

Here is my issue. I have about 18GB of music or roughly 3300 songs. Of those songs I probably only listen to about 20-25% (about 6GB) of them on a regular basis. And that is when I'm not listening to podcasts or streaming music from Last.FM.

I have a nice HTC EVO 4G with 8GB of physical memory. I don't use all of that for music because I need some room for other things but I can get most if not all of the songs I listen to regularly on that device. Since it's also my phone I carry it with me pretty much every where I go, so my favorite tunes are always a finger touch away.

Storing all that music in the cloud, regardless of who is providing it, requires at least some uploading and fees. Not just fees to the music service but ISP fees. Lots of ISP services, be it wired or wireless are now putting in data caps. Using these services you will be eating into those data limits. Wouldn't you want to save that for video or other online services?

One argument I've heard for these services is that all your music will be backed up. You don't have to worry about your hard drive crashing and all your music being lost. I'm all for data backups, but you should have been doing that long before these services came around. Having 18GB of music, some purchased online, some ripped from CDs, some from who knows where, I wouldn't be happy if my hard drive died, but I do periodic backups, I feel my music is relatively safe. If a catastrophe were to occur where my backup was destroyed because I didnt backup to the cloud...well lets just say I'd have more important things to worry about at that point than my music collection.

OK so for me I see, increased Internet data usage and fees. I see no benefit other than backup, but I already do that at no cost. All the music I want is available already on my phone, either streaming or stored locally.

So again I ask, "Why would anyone use these services?" Is the marketing just that good or am I missing something?

My Camera Comparison: Early Conclusion

I've decided to forgo any further testing of my cameras at this time. While it still shocks me that an 11 year old camera is taking better pictures than the more modern ones, it simply is. The Olympus isn't great with color, but that can be corrected, if necessary, in Photoshop easily enough.

I'll be taking the Olympus AND the HTC EVO (for various reasons) on our trip to San Diego Comic Con. I'll use the Olympus for those shots that I may want to print or are a bit more artsy. The EVO will be my general purpose camera for those more candid shots and times when I don't want to be hauling around a larger camera. I'll have the EVO with me anyway, so why not use it. Plus it's image capacity is MUCH greater than the Olympus.

Additionally the EVO has a Blogger app and Twitter, making the sharing of images much quicker and easier. With the Olympus I'll have to either take a laptop with me (not happening) or use the hotel computer to download the images and post them (slow and UGH).

Some day I may get a good DSLR that finally puts my trusty ol' Olympus to bed finally, but right now the 11 year old 2.1 MP camera is still besting the younger cameras in this household.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

My Camera Comparison: Part 2 - Well Lit Exterior

In part one of my comparison I took pictures in a not so well lit interior. This time I was outside with good overhead sun, veiled by light clouds, so bright, but not too bright.

The Results

Before getting into the details, as you can see from the images below. Color was the main differentiating factor. Detail was very similar for all three, again despite the differences in mega-pixels.

The HTC EVO 4G has exagerated colors, on the artwork but the grass in the background is slightly muted. Other images with strong red colors blew out badly too, resulting in lack of focus.
Noise was again a problem for the EVO.

The Kodak seemed to have the most accurate color but lost some detail, especially on the cheek. The Kodaks noise levels seemed to be the lowest of the three as well.

The Olympus did well on detail and noise. Again the 2.1 mega-pixel limit didnt seem to hinder the camera. The color was way off though.

The winner, by just a hair was the Kodak Easy Share C533 in this test. Most cameras are going to do reasonably well in these conditions and I really would have been fairly happy with any of these images. The HTC EVO 4G was probably at the bottom of the pile...again.

My Camera Comparison: Part 1 - Interior No Flash

This is the first of a few tests that I'll be making with our three digital cameras that we currently own. The goal is to decide if it's worth taking older dedicated cameras on an upcoming trip or to simply use the cameras built into our phones.

The three cameras in question are:
Of course this isn't all about image quality. I'll be comparing the other pros/cons in a later post.

This comparison was a simple cereal bar that was sitting on my desk. There was some indirect light coming from the window but both the Olympus and Kodak cameras wanted to use their flashes. I turned them off.

After cropping the images to focus on the same point, I resized the two smaller images up to the largest (from the EVO). Despite nearly doubling the resolution of the Olympus image, it still looked great.

The Results

The EVO had by far the most noise. So much so that despite it's mega-pixel advantage much of the detail was lost. The color accuracy is good.

The Kodak camera had a difficult time focusing in the lower light. This camera has difficulty focusing in optimal conditions. The label is a bit more readable than the EVO but not by much.

The Olympus was able to focus, even in the lower light and all the detail is clear and legible, even with only 2.1 mega-pixels. The color is off, but it's clean. The noise levels are low and what noise there is seems to be mono-chromatic minimizing it's effects.

(click image for full resolution and detail)

The winner is clearly the Olympus. Under these circumstances mega-pixels don't mean anything. The Kodak and HTC just don't have the optics for lower light images.

I have more testing to do before I crown the Olympus a winner, but it's interesting so far that an 11 year old camera is standing up to what is quickly becoming the standard fare for most casual camera users.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Worlds (almost) Largest Flea Market

Went to Brownsville,NE today on a whim. They were having a flea market. A big one. It pretty much ran the length of the town. Though the town isn't very large.

We parked down near the Missouri river. Of course the river wasn't supposed to be that close. The recent rains had made it swell over it's banks.

It was hard to look at items for sale, at first. We hadn't yet had lunch so we were focused on finding food first. I was hoping for some good local vendor type stuff, but it was mostly carny vans. The local volunteer fire department was selling corn dogs and pulled pork, among other things. The corn dogs were good (when aren't they?!) but the pork left something to be desired. It was cooked well, but it was completely unseasoned. Maybe the south spoiled me, but would a dry rub have been that difficult?

Walking among the vendors it became apparent that we weren't likely to find anything we'd want to take home. Old glass-wear and rusty old tools seemed most common. As were old romance novels and VHS tapes. Then there were the prerequisite vendors selling cheap toys, marijuana flags, car stickers, and airbrushed t-shirts.

It wasn't a terrible day by any means. It was a nice drive to and from. The walk and the town were nice too. There were some interesting antiques and the like as well. Maybe I should have picked up that Olympia beer glass for my collection.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Government Spending and taking inventory of our own problems

I don't quite understand why the same people who say that we spend too much money supporting social programs, don't have a problem going to war with every other country in the world? How is sticking our (the USA) nose where it doesn't belong better than making our own country better?

Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our education system is weak and becoming weaker, as compared to other comparable countries. Many states are drowning in debt. Corporate oligopolies are becoming more and more common in different markets, pushing out the small guys, stifling innovation and hurting consumers.

So why is it so bad to turn our eyes inward? Why is it unpatriotic to do this? Is it because we are so accustomed to being #1 that we cannot admit our own failures and weaknesses?

I'm not saying the US is messed up or should be compared to other countries with far worse problems, but that doesn't excuse us from taking inventory of our own issues.

The US is the person who gives advice to everyone else but can't take it without becoming defensive. Many of those countries we are happy to 'give advice' to never even asked for it to start with.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Music Industry Vs. Everyone Else

With Amazon just releasing it's Cloud Drive with accompanying Cloud Player, users are now able to upload their music collections to Amazon's cloud storage (basically a hard drive the Internet for your usage). With the Cloud Player you can easily access your music collection from a variety of devices and locations.

So basically Amazon is providing users a virtual hard drive that they can access anywhere. Seems simple enough. Why would this be a problem? Well the Music Industry, as a whole, says Amazon and users aren't licensed to do this with their music.

The first thing most of us think is, "What? I bought these songs. Why can't I do this?" Well as far as the Music Industry is concerned you only purchased a license to listen to the music in the form you purchased it on. Technically they don't even want you ripping your CDs to MP3s. From their perspective, you bought a license to listen to the music on that CD, that's it. Ideally they'd like to make you pay for each different way you listen to their music. That's how they look at it. It's not your music, it's theirs and they can tell you how you can listen to it.

The think is that violating that license was not illegal, it was just a violation of the license that they could do little about. So with the Amazon Cloud Drive/Player, they aren't going after us music listeners. We aren't doing anything illegal so what good would it do? But with Amazon they can pressure them with other means. Amazon sells a lot of music. The various music publishers can say, "Well if you want to do the Cloud thing then you have to play a license fee or we'll pull our catalog from your store." Of course this would hurt them too but the Music Industry doesn't want to cede ground on this. They did with allowing users to rip CDs and they are probably regretting that still. After all thanks to the extremely customer unfriendly law, the DMCA, it would be illegal to circumvent the copy protection to rip the CD.

The thing is, if this goes to court, and it may, the Music Industry may be forced to give up this fight. Is it fair use or not for users to be able to put their MP3s on a virtual 'cloud' hard drive somewhere? Personally I say yes it is. How would it be any different than me putting my music on a thumb drive or a portable hard drive so I could play the music anywhere? I don't see the difference and perhaps the court wouldn't either.

I'm actually hoping this does go to court. Amazon has the deep pockets to do this and they could stand a fighting chance, as compared to a small start-up company that would simply be crushed or paid off to go away. Then we'd have a clearer understanding of what rights we have left as music listeners. Maybe for once our government would side with the people instead of the corporations.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Libya's Rebellion

So I've been thinking a lot about the rebellion in Libya. It's a tough call to me whether the UN/NATO should have intervened. Some of the rebels are pretty well armed buy many are armed with little more than hunting rifles and rocks. Yet the Libyan army is attacking with tanks and bombs. So is it right that the UN has stepped in and destroyed many Libyan military facilities. Is it the rest of the worlds right to intervene in a sovereign nations' internal squabbles?

Part of me says, Yes. How do you negotiate with a man who is insane by many accounts? On the other hand there are many supporters of the current government. But does that make it right to use such extreme methods to quell a rebellion? The rebels want change. Were their demands so unreasonable? Clearly they think they are worth dying for.

Dying for your country, for what you believe is right and just is something that resonates with many free countries. Perhaps that's why we want to side with the rebels and the UN resolutions. I was rooting for the rebels the entire time but I'm not sure sure I agree with what the UN coalition has done thus far. Seems awful close to sticking our noses where they don't belong. I think so long as we only backup the rebels, rather than doing it all for them, we might come out of this situation with some dignity. We'll see.

The other thing that came to mind is, what would the US do if that happened here, in the US. If armed rebels started ousting current government officials out and taking towns and maybe states how would the US handle things? It's been talked about before, but what if Texas decided it wanted to secede? Wouldn't the US government react in much the same way as Libya's government? Many militias have formed here and there, upset about the government. Many go no where or are painted as crazies. Maybe they are but what would keep the media from making them look that way to keep them from gaining more power and popularity. We, in the US, eat up the media every day as if it's the truth. Do you think it's any different in Libya's cities where we see people saying, they don't understand why everyone has a problem with the current government?

Here in the US, we all know the government is corrupt and full of shit. Yet we keep buying they BS they sell us. Look at Obama. He had at least half the voters in the country buying his campaign promises of change. Yet we don't see any change. Most of the policies that failed G.W. Bush are still in place or even re-enforced by Obama. Just more of the same, just with a different face.

But most of us are comfortable, if not happy. We are content with the system we have, even if it is corrupt, because it's still not that bad. We won't see rebellion in the US unless things get really bad. We saw hints of that when the housing market popped and the economy took a dive. The Tea-Party was born of that. Agree with them or not, they gained power and popularity because people were suddenly struggling.

Again the media painted the Tea Party movement as fringe and borderline crazy. Maybe there were some fringe individuals, but there are those in any party/group. The Tea Party managed to get a few of their own into office too. I commend them on that. It's long term effects are to be seen, but right now I'm not very hopeful that a third party is going to have much impact. People get comfortable and forget their anger.

So would a rebellion like that in Libya or even Egypt happen in the US? Probably not in the near future, but we are not immune to it happening and I fear if/when it does our government will not respond any better than Muammar Gaddafi.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Twitter Vs. UberTwitter

If you are a Blackberry and Twitter user then you probably already know about the ban-hammer that Twitter hit UberTwitter with earlier today. The problem is that the official response wasn't very clear. Additional information was picked up by other blogs. But the damage was already done, people immediately felt that Twitter was killing it's competition in the mobile market.

It didn't help that #TwitterMobile was made a promoted trending topic, directing users where to download the official Twitter for Blackberry app. I'm sure this was done to help confused users get back on-line as quickly as possible, but scorned UberTwitter users saw this as additional evidence that Twitter was just trying to squash competitors.

The official reason for blocking UberTwitter is that they were violating the Twitter API policies. If this is truly the case then UberTwitter just needs to correct those violations. It also sounds like they've had nearly a year to correct some of these issues. It's not like Twitter didn't give them ample time.

But who are the users mad at? Twitter, not UberTwitter. The anger and frustration is understandable but misdirected. If Twitter is being honest about looking out for their customer base and simply enforcing the policies it makes everyone stick to, then why should they have to take the heat? They are doing what they have to do or risk being overrun by developers abusing the Twitter API and worse abusing Twitter data.

It's entirely possible that Twitter is doing all this to knock out a competitor, but that seems unlikely simply because it's only targeting a couple large clients, not all of them. Many Twitter clients are unaffected.

Hell, it may simply be Twitter enforcing it's copyright. UberTwitter has the word Twitter right in it. So this could all be resolved with a simple name change.

UPDATE: From @UberTwitter at approximately 3:24 PM CST, 02/18/2011

Interesting. This doesn't suggest a new download for users or anything. So what WAS the problem or will there be a new version of UberTwitter to come yet?

UPDATE 2: 2/19/2011

Well it seems that perhaps the name WAS the issue, as now UberTwitter is known as UberSocial. also redirects you to, So a new version of the software is now available for download as of 5:00PM CST. Additionally their Twitter account has been changed to: @UberSoc

Yesterday evening they posted these two posts:

This suggests not only was the name the issue but also a feature that UberTwitter had was deemed unacceptable to the Twitter team.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Passwords - Public Service Announcement

Ah passwords... Everyone hates them. They are a necessary evil in the world of computing and these days the world of computing is the world at large.

Mobile devices have made the Internet accessible from everywhere. Mark Zuckerberg says privacy is dead, but we still don't want other accessing our digital identities. After all, as I just mentioned, the digital/computing world is our world now. Stealing access to someones email or Facebook or Twitter is identity theft. It's not just about stealing credit card or social security numbers.

Stealing someones online identity may not have the same long term effects as stealing someones bank account info but the mental/emotional effects can be just as damaging, especially for the younger generations who live on the Internet. That is their way of life.

So strong passwords are a big deal. Yet they still suck. No one likes to use them. They don't want to have to remember them. So the passwords end up weak; too short, easy to crack. They don't change them often enough. They use the same password over and over again.

I'm not a hacker but what would I do to crack your password? First I'd try simple brute force. Many password cracking tools can break a weak password in seconds. Did you simply take a common word, found in any dictionary, and put a number on the end? Cracking programs can find that password very quickly.

Second thing I'd try is social engineering. I would email/call/txt you and try to convince you I'm a legitimate person from whatever service I'm trying to break into (Email, Facebook, Bank, etc.). Some of you might be smart enough to avoid this, but there are a lot who are not. This is a pretty effective way to steal a password and many hackers do this all the time. It's also called Phishing.

Oh and if you write down your passwords and keep them by your monitor I might call your coworker and try to social engineer them to find your password for me. Or if it's worth enough to me, pay off the cleaning person in your building to be looking/collecting passwords for me.

These first two give me your current password. If I'm lucky you use that same password on a lot of other sites too. That grants me greater access. I can collect data on you quickly, before you figure out what is going on and reset things. Really by the time you have figured it out, it'll be too late.

Third I'd try to break the password reset system on one of the sites you use. If I know your email address, I can try to break into your email. Most email systems now have a series of questions that you answer to authenticate you when you tell it you forgot your password. I can use Facebook and many other public data sources to figure out what your Elementary school was or your mom's maiden name.

This isn't as useful as having your password because I may not be able to get into your other systems, but if I can retain access to your email or maybe add a mail forwarder (when you get mail I can get a copy in my mailbox too) then I can use your account to collect additional info about you or use it to access other sites. Your email address is often used as your username in many systems.

So you are sitting there thinking one of three things:
  1. OMG! What do I do!?
  2. Yea right. You are just being paranoid.
  3. Yea, I know all this already and take steps to be careful.
Those of you in the #3 camp. If you have suggestions/corrections please add them to the comments.

Those in the #2 camp. Perhaps I am being a bit paranoid, but your are a perfect target. You don't think it'll happen to you so your guard is down.

Ah my scared little bunnies in camp #1. Don't worry all is not lost. You don't have to cut yourself off from the Internet. There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself.

  1. Never ever give your password to anyone over the phone (or in person). The only person I give my passwords to is my wife and she only gets a couple weak ones. You've probably been told this many times but it still rings true. It's also applicable to other info that you should keep secure, especially if it has anything to do with your bank or credit cards. Those are prime targets of organized crime these days.
  2. Change all your passwords. Don't use the same password every where. If one of your passwords is compromised, the damage is isolated. The online media-blog site Gawker had many of their users passwords compromised not long ago. Would you want to be one of the many who had to scramble and quickly change all the passwords of all the other sites where you might have used that same password.
  3. Use large complicated passwords. While some sites still have short maximum password lengths, take advantage of those who allow more characters. The more characters the longer it takes to brute force an attack. After while the hackers will move on to a different, easier target.
  4. Get a password manager. There are a number of good password managers out on the market now that can help you create and store all these complex passwords. The downside is that if it's compromised all your passwords are compromised. So make sure you have at least one really strong password that you can use for it. Many can be installed on your mobile device or are online, making them usable when not at your primary computer. A couple good ones are: LastPass and KeePass
  5. If you don't want to use a password manager use pass phrases instead of passwords. Use the spaces and punctuation. That'll make the password strong but easier for you to remember.
  6. Use a password card. These are a matrix of random characters that create passwords for you. The basic concept is rather than remembering the actual password you remember a simple one or two character/color combo. It can go in your wallet too so you always have your passwords available.
  7. Change your passwords often. Why you might ask? I change mine on a regular basis because if my password was compromised and I didn't know it, the hacker could be in my system for weeks/months and I'd have no idea.
  8. When setting up your password reset questions put in fake information. If your first car was a Chevy Camaro, put in Ford Mustang. Something you can easily remember but someone with information about your past would not figure out. As long as it's clearly not BS the password reset tools won't care. This works for credit cards and the like when you have to call in and give a passkey too.
A few don'ts, just to re-stress:
  • DON'T use passwords with words that can be found in the dictionary. They can be cracked quickly, even if you have a number at the end. Most cracking tools have that factored in and it won't slow them down.
  • DON'T write down your passwords and especially don't leave them taped or Post-it noted to your monitor or leave them under your keyboard.
  • DON'T give your password(s) out to anyone but your most trusted.
  • DON'T think you are immune.
I added that last don't because it's easy to believe, "Why would anyone want to hack my accounts?" Well they may not be targeting you directly. You may be right that you aren't really a prime target, but one on one attacks are probably unlikely unless you are a specific target. With the Gawker leak that I mentioned above, the site's username/password database was broken into. They didn't target you specifically but if you are on that list then you'd be a target.

So go update your passwords! It's more important than ever that you have good strong passwords. Your whole life, not just your digital one, could depend on it.

Related articles: Passwords Revisited

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Déjà vu - I'm pretty sure I haven't written this before

...most people suffer a mild (i.e. non-pathological) epileptic episode regularly (e.g. a hypnagogic jerk, the sudden "jolt" that frequently, but not always, occurs just prior to falling asleep), it is conjectured that a similar (mild) neurological aberration occurs in the experience of déjà vu, resulting in an erroneous sensation of memory.
from: Wikipedia

This is very interesting to me because I've never realized that these two events are related or that my mild little jolts in bed were little epileptic episodes. I never really knew what they were. Nothing serious, just weird. Plus they don't happen that often. Neither does my déjà vu but that freaks me out every time.

The question it just a weird quirk of our brains or is there something else going on? Memory is pretty powerful so it's very conceivable that it can build these 'memories' for us. Just think about how vivid some dreams can be. I know mine are so vivid and realistic that I wonder if I'm peeking into parallel universes. I mean if not, my brain should be a movie director because my dreams are more entertaining that most of the drivel from Hollywood these days! Precognition seems unlikely to me as there are way too many variables to consider to look into the future.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Bathroom Remodel - Vanity and Sink are finally in!

So it's been awhile since I posted any updates to the bathroom. We had many discussions about what kinda of vanity, what kind of top, what kind of sink we wanted. It's amazing how not having a sink while everything else is basically done will do to help you make decisions.

We originally looked at various premade vanities. From free standing to built-ins. The problem was the size of the space for the vanity. We had 42 inches.

We didnt really want to give up counter space and the free-standing vanities, while very nice were both expensive and took away counter space.

The built-in cabinets simply didnt come in 42 inches, standard. Not that we couldn't get one, but we would have had to special order it.

So in the end I built ours out of MDF (medium density fiberboard), wood glue and caulk. I'm really happy with the results, though it was a ton of work. MDF makes a lot of sawdust too. If I ever use it again, it'll be in the Spring/Summer/Fall where I can cut it outside!

The next hurtle was the counter top. What material? I really didnt want to do laminate in the bathroom, just because of the moisture. As is I used PVC trim as much as possible and the MDF was primed and painted carefully to minimize moisture issues. So in my mind laminate was out. Though if push came to shove it might have happened.

I really didn't want to do a tile counter top. We had a tile counter in our kitchen in Nashville, before we remodeled it and it was awful! I'll come back to the whole tile thing in a minute.

So then it was solid surface or stone. Though I like many of the man-made solid surface choices it didn't seem to work with what we were doing stylistically. Plus the price really wasn't so different than stone, for the size we were looking to do. (about 8 sq ft)

So we checked into getting a remnant of granite from a local stone vendor. We went and looked at all the different selections and were pretty happy with the two options we choice (though one really didnt work under our bathroom lighting). We were given a rough quote of about $75 per sq ft, which seemed on the high side for a remnant. The guy we talked to said it might be cheaper but we'd have to work with a particular guy who was on vacation. Hey it was the week of Christmas, we were understanding. We we never did hear back from them. Even today they have never tried to contact us.

So this last weekend we were browsing Home Depot or Lowes and we come across their basic black granite tiles. They were 12x12 and only $5 each. I knew I had some Hardiebacker and thin-set at home still. We found matching bull-nose, so...

Despite my earlier hesitation with tile, we went with tile, but it's granite at least. We picked up a really strong epoxy grout too. One of my major concerns was the grout. Most grouts are porous, even after you seal them. Or if something thin got dropped on the grout line would it gouge. This epoxy grout eliminated all those worries. It's seriously strong once it sets and sticks really well.

Some of the wainscoting was delayed because of the counter top choice. I didn't want to put in any of the trim around the vanity area in case we had to maneuver a big slab into place. So once we finally got the counter done we were able to move forward with that.

More glass mosaic tiling and grouting and siliconing to make sure everything is just so, before maneuvering the sink and faucet into place.

We had many sink discussions as well. Early on we settled on a vessel of some kind, rather than a more typical 'sunken' sink or under-mount. That was an important decision as it set the height of the vanity top, especially important since I was building it.

We looked at the standard bowl types, and some nice rectangular ones that sat on top of the counter. I really liked those, but they used up far too much counter space and what about cleaning behind them?

The bowls were nice and really not that expensive (unless you went will more exotic materials). Since we had a black/white/gray theme going we pretty much knew it would be one of those colors. As we went with black granite for the counter top, black was out. The mosaic tile has a nice white glass, so we looked at a frosted bowl. When we were looking at a slab of granite we considered a clear glass bowl to show off the stone. Since we didn't do the slab the clear didn't make much sense any more. Finally we saw a nice mix of the rectangular sinks I liked from before with the advantages of the bowl. It was white porcelain and about $100 cheaper than the frosted glass. While at the time I think the choice was a bit, 'it works, lets get it and get this done.' I really think it worked out perfect. I really like how it looks.

So while we have a little more decorative touches to make to the bathroom, it's functionally complete at this point and man that takes a load off. It's been a long hard road!