Monday, December 13, 2010

LED Lighting. I've drunk the Kool-Aid

Some lights burned out. The "Honey Do" list had an entry for "Replace broken lights in house". The florescent under-cabinet lights hurt our eyes.

In my recent hobby (trains) I've made a new friend, Home Depot. I probably go there 3 times a week. They know me by name (and CC#). I've always LOVED LEDs'. Yes I've had a constant infatuation and love-affair with them culminating in collage when I was actually able to make them from scratch (fun stuff with silicon and hydrofluoric acid). I love everything LED. Lately its been those micro flashlights, and I've experimented with strip lighting for my trains.

But today my task was mundane. Light Bulbs. Well what do you know. Home Depot has LED Light Bulbs ! I've read about them in all the exotic press (like Popular Science, and slashdot) but never seen one with my own eyes. There they were on the shelf. Expensive as hell but they "Looked Like" real light bulbs. What? I needed a 60w equivalent - typically about $3 for your incandescent or $5 for a ( ) CF bulb. I Hate CF bulbs. Its the worse of both categories packaged into one. Annoying flicker of Florescent, and poison of the mercury, and they just make my eyes hurt. But were supposed to ditch the Incandescents and buy into the CF mantra ... for what ? Global Warming ? Landfills full of toxic waste ? I'll never buy a CF if they pry my Edison from my dead cold hands (but hasnt stopped the Significant Other from getting some ... arg.).

So here I looked and my Love And Joy was now in a standard bulb package ! Wow.
Prominently displayed was a logo on the box "Save $97" ... fine print (over 20 years).
Actual Cost $24.00 Damn. Its a hard sell. Buy a $3 incandescent that lasts a year and only adds on to the non-line-item electric bill where I can imagine its the TV or the pool pump adding the $ ? Or pay $24. cash-in-hand *right now* for the promise of less cost later.

So I let my Love Afair with LED's combined with my Super Math Skills to convince me that $24 one time is worth $4 20 times + 10x the electric costs.
It actually makes economic sense, especially if placed in fixtures that are a pain the arse to get at. But really, if you do the math it makes sense ... except the pain of the 1-time purchase.

Well xmas spirit in hand, and open wallet in tow I got ONE. Ok Only ONE. What harm in that.

When I unpacked it at home I had the same experience as unpacking my iPhone. I cradled it in my hand, it felt GOOD. Strong, Rugged. Heavy. Packed like an hereloom, not a throw-away. This was no childs light. This is a Real Man's. Light. And armed with the math I could advocate the expense as "Saving Money". It Felt GOOD.

Then came the test. I plugged it into the kitchen overhead light. Dareingly turned on the switch expecting full heartedly that it would be a dim reminiscent of LED's gone by ... but NO ...
It SHOWN . Shone with the proud light of day. The tone was perfect (slightly yellow) , Yea even *better* then incandescent ! No way. Way. Dude. I liked the light BETTER then Incandescent. And of course no match for CF or Florescent strobe headaches.

Wow. I was impressed. Sold that is. Black Gold. Texas Tea.
I was onto something.

Open the channel. I needed to replace 2 indoor floods in the basement. Off to Home Depot. There they were ! 2 LED's for indoor floods. A 40w equiv (even though replacing a 100w flood). I quivered and shrank but decided my morals were strong and I was going for it. So I did. Brought them home, and pluged them ... ALMOST in ... DAMN.
They were too big for the socket (recessed movable celiing spot) but only by a TINY TINY BIT.
Almost about to give up I heafted the piece of art in my hands and *wished* it to fit.
Then I realized under the white paint, was heft. Heavy. Whats that ? Pure Aluminum !
I can deal with that. Off to the shop and I turned on my belt sander. 1 minute later 1mm of aluminum block neatly sanded off and volila ! They fit !

And they Shone ! And light was in the basement and all was good. Beautiful.
When's the last time you could SAND a light bulb to fit ??? Damn. Never expected THAT advantage.

So next on the "Honey Do" list was under-the-counter Florescents. I HATE those but I remembered my friend, Home Depot, had a few LED strip lights ... off to the store and back with 2 in hand. A little rewiring and a wire nut and voila ! Under-counter LED's that look beautiful and should last 20 years and don't flash like Pokemon cartoon giving me epilepsy.

What more can you want ?

I'm converted. I'm an LED Man now. I have taken it on myself to help the prices come down by replacing every bulb and lighting in my house to LED wherever practical (few places still need VAST lighting like my 500w halagins in my workshop) but for the most part its a no brainier.

No More Florescents.
No More Incandescents.

I'm the LED Man and I'm not going back !

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Harry Snooze Potter

I *like* Harry potter movies, I really do. They are fun, action, exciting, sometimes silly and occasionally dramatic. So with mild anticipation we went to the latest Harry Potter movie "harry potter and the deathly hallows". I knew it was "Part I of II" so I expected it not to end with any sort of completeness. But what I did not expect was the agonizing 2 hours 30 minutes BEFORE it ended to be so intensely confusing and boring. It was so boring and slow that my 11 year old son literally fell asleep halfway through and spent 30 minutes snorring ... seriously ! He was only awakened by a very loud scene.

Maybe this is one of those movies where you "had to have read the book". But to my mind its one of those movies "only a mother could love". A huge amount of time spent slipping in cameo shots of past characters who I couldn't ever remember, and who played no real part in the plot. That is, what thin plot there was.
Ok here's the spoiler plot as far as I could figure out. The Bad Guy wants to kill Harry so he goes on the run. Well more like a long walk and sleep. Somewhere along the lines we discover he has to get and destroy some of these necklace thingies. Why? I dont know. And to do that he has to get a sword. Which eventually he finds in a frozen lake. Then his friend uses it to destroy the necklace. Why harry couldn't do it ? Guess his friend who wandered off 1/3 the way through the movie had to have something to do. Then he does some more running around ... eventually there's yet another "dramatic fight scene" then its over. Oh yea there's some subtle romantic sub-plot I cant figure out. An interrupted wedding which I thought was harry's until the end and some wands and for 5 minutes an interesting fable about the "Deathly Hallows" ... which has something to do with the plot but who knows.
And what few plot bits there were, were obvious takeoffs from classics (Lord of the rings, Star Wars, etc) but not done as well and dropped like rabbit droppings from time to time to add a tiny bit of confusion to the otherwise consistently boring trudging story.

Nothing more to write, that was it. Atleast the Titanic had some good sweeping images and a plot I could understand "gonna drown in the cold ocean".

Sorry to Potter Fans, maybe you'll love it. But if your interested in going to a movie for Entertainment, skip this one and watch the car rust instead.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

iPad Drawings

I found a "trick" in the Brushes app. It lets you load a photo and then mix it into the main drawing area. You can then draw "over" the photo and remove the photo at the end.

Voila !

Monday, August 16, 2010

iPad Second Impressions

Its not been 3 weeks since I've got my hands on the iPad. I was about to write this review ON the iPad but found that for some reason I could not get Safari on iPad to focus on this text entry field !!! (-1 for review !)

Since my first impressions I've lugged my iPad to a conference in Canada (, used it daily for email and browsing, read 2 eBooks, watched 3 movies, created a dozen "paintings" and overall used it fairly exhaustively.

Conclusion. Its much better and useful then I originally thought, but I'm not throwing out my laptop.

Touch Typing.
After a week or so I got prety good at touch typing. If you have a desk or lap to put the ipad and can use both hands and use it in landscape mode I could nearly touch-type. By 'nearly' I had to hold my hands very still since there is no tactile feedback, but I could type without looking at the keyboard ... sometimes even error free. But not as easy as with a real keyboard. I quickly put it back into my backpack at the conference and whipped out my laptop.
But its good enough to write 2-5 paragraph emails and I found while sitting in my living room recliner I would use the iPad to write emails instead of going to the 'extra trouble' of leaning over to grab my laptop and booting it up.

Reading Emails is a joy. Even more so then my laptop primarily due to the fine control over zoom. Its easy to zoom into an email so its just big enough font to read cleanly reguardless of if I have my glasses or not or the room lighting.
EBook reading is quite good. I've been using it instead of my Kindle but with Amazon books, for the last week. The nicest thing is the backlight so I dont disturb my wife quite so much by having a LED light on my chest while reading in bed. However I do find it does cause eyestrain sooner then my Kindle and I like the physical page buttons on the Kindle better then the iPad. But it makes up for it with a backlight and larger screen. Almost on par.
If I already had an iPad I would think twice about buyiung a kindle. But if All I wanted is a book reader, I'd suggest a Kindle.

Touch operations.
Still in love with the magic feelings of the touch. Last week I put on a full screen protector sheet and am considering removing it. It seems to blur the screen slightly (or maybe its my eyes) and seems to make the touch screen slightly unresponsive. But its hard to tell for sure without 2 iPads neck to neck to see if this is my imagination or its real. But it just seems slightly more blury and slightly harder to activate touch. I am thinking of pealing off the protector and going naked (as apple suggests ... they no longer suggest screen protectors !)

Movie Watching
Wow. Thats all. 3 letters. Wow. I watched 3 HD movies in bed in my hotel which I had previously downloaded (DO pre-download ! The hotel Wifi was horrible).
I had to plug in my earphones to get loud enough sound. Other then that it was amazing.
Real HD resolution video and clear sound. A fantastic experience for watching a movie alone.

Overall ... I'm still impressed
Very impressed. Cant wait for V(N+1). A phone ? Camera ? Video Camera ? Better file exchange ?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

iPad First Impressions

A perk of being a mobile developer is that I often get new "toys". This week I was lucky to see "on vehicle for delivery" both an iPhone 4, and an iPad.

This is my impressions.
Impressive. I have to say that the iPad is by far the most elegent piece of electroncs I have ever seen. Its an exillerating joy to hold, look at, touch and interact with. It truely feels like "magic". Ever so gentle feather light touches animate the device and open magical doors into ... what ?

Thats my conundrum. What is this device ? I'll tell you what its *not*. It isnt a phone. So the fact that it looks like a big iPhone is misleading. Its not a phone ! So ok, is it a laptop ? No. Its not a laptop. Even with the generous (about 80% full size) onscreen keypad which is vastly easier to use then the iphone, its still not touch-typing. I cant imagine typing this blog for example. I did type a few sentances, and I'm getting better, but for text entry, its not a laptop replacement. Plus the apps are not the same as a laptop or desktop.

So what is it. Its not an iphone, its not a laptop, its not a desktop. Here's a few things it can *morph* into.

A really expensive and huge iPod.
A digital photo frame.
A hand held web browser that actually browsers the "Real Web" (not the mobile web).
An artistic device. I did this last night in bed playing with the "Brushes" app

An HD Movie player. Yes. Its *incredible* looking as a movie player, by far the best screen I've seen on ANY TV. Movies can be bought from iTunes for about $5 for HD and $4 for SD. So far a dismal selection but more is comming I'm sure.
Also works with Netflix (for $10/month which I already have a service fee).

An Email reader. Great builtin email app like the iphone but better.
A document viewer, previews .doc and .xls files as well as pictures etc.

A gaming device (what 100,000 games available.

But really is there one tangible term for what the iPad is and is it worth the money ?

I honestly dont know. I wont be throwing out my laptop. I wont lug it around as my ipod. I certianly cant replace my iphone. And dont even touch my desktop dual-21" HD monitors with 4-CPU*2 hyperthreading 8GB monster.

What is it ? thats the question. Apple has created something that previously didn't exist and is now in the process to create a market and desire for it.

I can say this, its a "Game Changer". Kudo's to Apple. Even more then the iPhone they've pulled a rabbit out of their hat and created magically something from nothing and *SOLD IT*. I think this will be the Harbinger of things to come. The device to copy, mimic, attempt (and fail) to improve. Apple is in the lead yet again.

But what is it ? And is it worth the $500 ? I cant say.
But you wont pry it from my dead cold hands.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Love those targeted Ads

I'm a slashdot junkie, I even have a Google Widget for Slashdot.
Almost fell out of my chair when I saw this one. Nice targeted advertising !

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Trains Part II

My "experimental" small shelf train layout is about complete. I'm pretty impressed.

Tonight I have the 'pool table guy' coming over to move the pool table to the other half of the basement freeing up a large section to start on the 'Real Thing'.

Considering this 6x1' "experimental" layout took me about 4 months, I predict a good 10 years of fun ahead of me !

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Ignorance is a blessed shadow that follows me though life. No matter how much light I put on it, it gets stronger.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My first "hand laid" train switch

Today I completed my first major accomplishment in my reincarnated hobby. A fully hand-made "hand laid" HO train switch. These are hand-cut rails soldered to a PC form then attached to wood ties

Here's what the full switch looks like (to scale with fingers)

In the bottom pix Notice the closeup of the "Frog". Once this is attached to the roadbed and painted over you wont see the shiny PC boards or solder joints .

Along with this I've also completed my first set of "hand laid" rail track, its really amazing experience. You glue down the ties then cut rail and actually spike them in with tiny tiny microscopic railroad spikes and thats how the rail stays put. Needs to be very accurate (like the switches but not quite so tollerence sensitive).

See the details with the "Points" (the parts that turn left and right

Special thanks to Fast Tracks for their incredible high quality tools and resources