Month: February 2010

Gearing Up: Time for Windows 7

My work computer has been extremely flaky for the last week.  I’ve had to restart several times per day just to keep my basic functionality working at a decent pace.  It’s not even the general slowness that I’ve come to expect with Windows after several months of use.  Nay.  I’m dealing with 20KB PDF attachments taking 45 seconds to open…which also locks up every other window I try to click on in the meantime…then Excel hangs, and Outlook starts crunching away using 50% of my CPU cycles.  Save-Close-Restart.  Yuck.

I headed over to my helpdesk buddy to have a conversation about re-imaging my machine as I do every 9 months or so.  After a few of the usual question/answer exchanges, I was prompted with a new question: Windows XP or Windows 7?  Umm…is 7 a viable option?  I know XP works well enough…well…it’s not necessarily ideal, but I know what to do if it’s acting up…hmm.  I decided to do some research before I made that final decision.

After some googling and anecdotal research, the best I could come up with was that 7 is a better option than Vista.  Okay, fine, but that doesn’t really give me a warm fuzzy about making the change.  Though the geek in me wants to be on the new OS, I don’t know that I can justify the risk that one of the apps I use at work might crap out in Windows 7.

As if it was scripted, I later opened up Google Reader which pointed me to an article from my How-To-Geek RSS feed called “Run XP Mode on Windows 7 Machines Without Hardware Virtualization“.  Huzzah!  That’s the kind of safety net I was hoping for!

I swap to the new machine today around 3 (depending on my afternoon workload).  New machine, but same model and specs.  There are still some questions that I don’t have answers to, so I hope to have positive answers coming my way the next couple of weeks.  Some of the questions include:

  • How is the battery life of my laptop when running 7 vs XP?
  • How long will it be until I find a reason I need to use the virtual XP environment?
  • Will Windows 7 freeze like XP when I re-dock my Dell D630?

I’ll be having to make a few quick updates as I install some of my go-to apps and explore how I settle in to the new OS.

I’m pretty excited.

Now Testing: Handbrake

After six weeks of iPhone use, I’ve found myself wanting to have more video loaded in the (unlikely) case that I find myself with some downtime.  You know, load on a few episodes of Arrested Development and MacGyver.

Yep, the logo is a flaming drink and pineapple...

Yep, the logo is a flaming drink and pineapple...

I’ve been a long time user of DVDFab for ripping my DVDs onto my computer, and I’m quite happy with the overall experience…that is…until I tried transcoding to a format that works on the iPhone.  Yuck.  Time to try something else.

After some online research, Handbrake rose to the top of my list.

I installed the Windows GUI and took my first crack at it last week.  The interface was intuitive enough, though as is the case for most video conversion applications, it’s pretty easy to get lost in all of the different options.  For now, I’ve stuck with the basics.

More to come as I play with things a bit more.

**Note: Anyone reading this hoping they may have found a good DVD ripper, you’ll want to look elsewhere.  Handbrake is not your answer.  It’s doesn’t break copy protection, and doesn’t try to…so if that’s your goal, don’t waste your time here.

To the Boneyard: Samsung Blackjack II

My iPhone is definitely here to stay, and that means it’s time to say goodbye to my second Blackjack.

What I’ll Miss:

  • Tic-tac style keyboard
  • Replaceable Battery – I’ve had several batteries between my two Blackjacks…normal and extended life.  One of my biggest points of concern with the iPhone is that it needs to keep me going through the day.
  • Expandable memory – iPhone’s 32GB will be reasonable, but I do wonder how long it will take to feel cramped.

Goodnight, sweet prince.

Off to the Boneyard: Daily Burn

Daily Burn ( is a web app that helps users track fitness and nutrition goals in an online community.  It allows you to set goals and offers an interface to track progress.

Honestly, this isn’t a bad app, but there are a handful of gaps that meant a trip to the Boneyard.

It’s a hassle to log in and navigate around to enter the appropriate information:

I’ve dilligently tried to remember to log in every day to track the food I’ve eaten, the workouts I’ve done, and my current weight, but it’s just not an enticing proposition.  First off, the interface requires a large number of clicks per operation.  Oh what’s that, 3 days behind eh?  It’s really going to be a hassle clicking here, there, and everywhere to get caught up again.

Additionally, I’d like to see some deeper flexibility in the type of information I really care about tracking.  Give me some distinct options for how detailed I need to get when logging my progress.

A spreadsheet on Dropbox is as effective of a solution:

Yeah, good ol’ Dropbox ( giving me easy access to a document created in my old standby Excel.  I’m able to track my nutritional and fitness goals and customize to my heart’s content.  Also, though the data sits in the cloud, the format (and ultimate portability) is in my control.

From a security perspective, I encrypt the Excel file that I keep in my Dropbox.  Maybe this is overkill given the low-sensitivity of the contents, but I’m already doing this as my best practice for tracking my finances (more on this another time).

My experience with the community left me unsatisfied:

Even if I’m a bit frustrated with the UI and a little nervous about security, the community isn’t something that gets recreated if I go it alone.  Then again, I never really felt a sense of community when I made my goals public or attempted to participate in group goals.

I connected with “motivators” (other users I found online or recruited to help keep me motivated and on track), however, the motivation I received was stronger from mild acquaintances who commented on my apparent progress.

All said, the DailyBurn community as a whole seems to be meeting their goals, and it is a great place to help get some direction on improving health.  I can say that it was easy to set up, and did not require a bunch of up-front work on my part as a user; I appreciated that, but I ultimately found that I was best off  going this one alone.