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Italian Home Construction

Vanessa and I had the opportunity to visit some friends who are building a new home just south of Arezzo, Italy.  The home was in a partially-completed state, which afforded a very interesting look at construction techniques.

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Almost-finished home

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Honeycomb brick used for inner wall structure

The first thing you notice about homes built in Italy – and across most of Europe – is that they are built almost exclusively out of concrete and / or stone and brick.  The “bricks and sticks” construction we use across the United States is practically unheard of.

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Textured styrofoam used for insulation in walls and floors

The construction is very, very strong.  The home we visited was a modest, three bedroom home of perhaps 1500 sq. ft.  The walls were built of three layers: an inner structural brick honeycomb is layered with sheets of textured sytrofoam and then covered with exterior stonework.  The resulting wall is well over a foot thick: exterior stone / concrete / honeycomb brick / styrofoam / inner concrete.  As you can guess, these layers can withstand significant earthquakes and are almost impervious to heat and cold extremes.

The foundation is likewise impressive.  In the US, a typical slab foundation has footers poured around the exterior and a thin slab floor.  Here, deep and thick footers are poured underneath all of the walls, and the slab itself is about six inches.

Heating is provided with floor heaters.  The slab is covered with textured styrofoam, onto which is laid heat transferring tubing.  This is then covered with a thin layer of self-leveling concrete.  The insulated concrete layer holds heat well and keeps the interior isolated from the cold foundation.

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Floor heat distribution system. Each valve controls heat to a different zone. The tubes for each zone aren't installed yet.

Each room is a separate zone, so it is very simple to heat some areas of the home and not others.  This is a very efficient design. The multi-zone distribution system with its independent thermostats and valves is a work of art in itself.

We have a floor heating system in the home where we are staying and it is interesting how well it works.  Since the building itself radiates heat across the entire floor, it is virtually draftless, and you feel very comfortable even though the room itself is much cooler than would feel comfortable with a furnace.  The home is a rambling restored farmhouse, but due to the multi-zone heating system, we only bother to heat the bedroom, since we aren’t at home much.  This would be impossible to pull off efficiently using American style furnaces.  My sinuses are also really happy with this approach.

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Master plumbing distribution center.

Furnaces and boilers are practically unheard of.  Here, homes are outfitted with powerful, efficient instant water heaters.  The heaters are designed to heat water for the radiators and floor heaters as well as the hot water supply for the home.  Unlike models I’ve used in America, these suckers pump out a lot of heat.

Since the home is very dependent on a lot of water tubing, and since this tubing is built into foot-thick walls and foundations, plumbing is taken quite seriously.  Instead of the haphazard approach taken in American construction where water supply is run rather ad-hoc, in Italy the water is brought to a central utility room where each zone has independent cutoffs.  As you can see from the photos, the tubing is substantial and built to last.  It needs to be – any leak is a major headache.

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Typical beam-and-tile construction. Layers of tile and insulation keep the ceiling cool. No attics needed.

Roofs here are almost universally made of Italian tile.  It’s a shame we can’t use tile in Texas any longer – ever since the Mayfest storm of 1995, tile is a thing of the past.  The layers of tile, styrofoam, and more tile create a well-insulated roof that doesn’t produce radiant heat like asphalt shingles.

Windows, as in the States, are double-paned “Low-E” design.  Unlike in the States, however, almost all Italian windows can be easily opened and are installed with shutters.  The combination of open windows and shutters to block the hot sun helps to keep the heat out while still providing a breeze.

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Preinstalled solar and A/C hookups.

Most Italians don’t bother with air conditioning.  Summers are hot – about as hot as in Texas – but with such energy efficient homes, a reasonable set of fans can keep you comfortable on all but the hottest of days.  Homes, however, are often plumbed for air conditioning with coolant tubing pre-installed.  This makes it easy to decide after you’ve lived in the space for a season or two exactly how much air conditioning you want and in which rooms.

Likewise, all homes are required to have preinstalled hookups for solar panels.  You see a lot of solar going on here.  The farmhouse where Vanessa and I are staying features an array of 40 panels producing quite a lot of power.

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Electrical utility, wired for everything currently imaginable.

Since the home is hard to modify once it’s built, Italians have a strong incentive to go out of their way to use good materials and put a lot of thought into planning.  Electrical utilities along with phone, cable, fiber, alarm wiring, etc. are all carefully planned and brought into a central utility room.  We do the same in the States, except that here, you’ll see a lot of wiring pulled for appliances that don’t exist, “just in case.”

Italy is a nation that learned lessons about “building to last” a thousand years ago.  All over the country you find homes, churches, and entire towns that are well over five hundred years old and still in perfectly usable condition.  It’s no surprise, then, that while we build homes and neighborhoods that last fifty to a hundred years, the Italians are still building homes and neighborhoods that can last five hundred or even a thousand years.

It is a set of lessons we would do well to learn.

Epicurean Tour 2011

Me, with dancing Spaniards

I’m writing this from the Piazza del Campo in Siena, where a huge group of littering Spanish tourists, who, failing in their attempts to start “The Wave,” have just embarked on a mass-performance of “La Macarena.”  Seriously.  It’s pretty epic fail. At least, for a change, the embarrassing tourists aren’t Americans.

So, how came I to be in Italia, you might ask?  At least, you might ask this question if you didn’t know my Italophile wife.

It all started after our honeymoon.  We were bemoaning the fact that, so soon after our wedding, she had to pack up and go on tour in Holland for two weeks.  I dutifully sent her on her way, and I was, as always, proud of her for her work, but sad to see her go.

A simple twist of fate later, and I found myself with some free time on my hands.  I got a decent deal on a plane ticket to Amsterdam and, lo and behold, found myself on tour with Vanessa for the second half of her tour.

The next thing you know, and we’ve found a pair of cheap tickets to Italy, and a free place to stay, and, uh… well… you guessed it, we’re in Italy for a couple of weeks.

We’ve been eating our way through Europe like a pair of starving Gypsy moths.  As usual, Tuscany does not disappoint.  From Bistecca alla Fiorentina to Ravioli con Ricotta e Tartufo, we’re dining like Scottish kings – amazing food, really cheap.

For updates and photos, just follow my Twitter feed.  I’ll update this post when more photos come online.

Hackintosh vs iPad

A lot of people come into the coffee shop with iPads and are intrigued by my Hackintosh…. As a portable, I’ll take my Hackintosh over an iPad for most everything I do, with some caveats.

First off, it cost about $500 as configured (includes the cost of a Snow Leopard install disc) – 2 GB RAM, 64GB SSD (soon to be 2x for 128 GB total), camera, Wifi, bluetooth.  That’s considerably cheaper than a comparable iPad (actually there is no comparable iPad, but if there were it would likely cost close to $1K).  It can run almost any Mac, Windows, or Linux app (I *love* the Ubuntu 10.10 netbook edition) – “almost” because it won’t run apps that exceed its screen size without connecting to an external monitor.  With 3 USB ports and an SD slot, it can connect to a KVM so I can use it as a desktop Mac – it’s about as powerful as a Mac mini.  And it runs Snow Leopard *very* well – I never have lockups, everything works – I even use it onstage for my software synths, which usually are the litmus test for stability.

The keyboard is cramped and requires a slight relearning curve but I am confident I can out-type compared to the on-screen iPad keyboard – if you have an iPad keyboard case, however, you’ll win.  The battery life is less but still impressive – ~5 hrs of heavy use, 6+ hrs of light use, 48+ hrs of sleep, depending on monitor brightness.  It’s about as thick and heavy as an iPad if you have an iPad keyboard case.  It’s also tough.  Mine has been dropped on concrete many times thanks to clumsy drummers and shows almost no signs of wear.

I have the Mini 9, while Vanessa has the 10v.  The 10v has a slightly larger screen and keyboard (the keyboard is a lot less cramped) and can accept a standard 2.5″ hard drive so you can up it to 500 GB or more, or use a big SSD (if you can afford it).  The 10v, by all accounts, is as good as a Mini 9 as a Hackintosh.

Of course there is a level of tweakery required to get the thing running, but it’s actually fairly easy to do, as there are really good guides and helper apps available now.  In short, you copy a file onto one small USB drive, you copy Snow Leopard install onto another, larger drive, and then boot up from the USBs.  Two or three clicks and you’re installed to 10.6.  A couple of tweaks and you’re ready for 10.6.7.  The only thing that doesn’t work at that point is the internal mic, which requires a hack to enable (USB headset mics work fine).  The hack took me about 15 minutes to complete.

Next step: install Snow Leopard on my desktop.

Jupiter Journey

Jupiter

Once upon a time a Jupiter Jumper came to Earth.  The Jumper asked me to come to Jupiter.

He said, “Would you like to come to Jupiter?” then said, “Of course you would.  It’s only a matter of two blocks, Mars Street and Jupiter Street.”

“And that’s only 6,000,000,000 miles,” he continued.  “You travel only on Halley’s Comet Bus, and Falling Star Airlines!”

I said, “Okay!” and the Jumper beeped with joy.

At the Comet bus station I said, “Two tickets to Mars.”

At Mars I said, “Two round tickets to Jupiter.”

At Jupiter I asked, “Where are we?”

No responce [sic]!  I looked back.  He wasn’t there!

Also Jupiter

I rented a Braniff Flying Saucer and set the dial on “Earth.” I went between Venus and Mars.  No Earth!  The Jupiter Jumper was about 100 miles away.  He destroyed Earth!

I shot a missile at him from the Flying Saucer.  It hit him and he fell into the Sun and got burned up.

The Earth came back together and the dead and injured people, animals, fish, and birds came back to life.

Next time I take a trip I’ll go to Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, or Venus.

Rip R.
3rd Grade

Lookout Mobile Security

Lookout is a nifty utility that performs a few useful functions on your Blackberry, Windows Mobile, or Android phone – virus detection, backup, and location.

I’m not that interested in virus detection: since I don’t install non-Market apps, it’s very unlikely that I would pick one up – and so far there have been no real virus outbreaks on Android anyway.  Likewise, backup isn’t all that useful to me, either, since pretty much everything on the phone that I care about is already backed up with Google.

But the location service is something that might come in very handy someday.  In less than a minute on the web site, Lookout had located my phone with frightening accuracy.

When it says “zero meters” it isn’t kidding, either.  Lookout located not only the correct room in my house, but also pinpointed the side of the room where my phone was sitting.

The other location feature that promises to be useful is the “Scream” function.  If you misplace your phone in the house, you can usually call it, and when it rings, find it.  However, if I’m alone, I’m screwed, because I don’t have another phone from which to call my cell phone.  And if the phone is muted then calling it won’t work. But Lookout’s “Scream” works even if the phone is muted, and it’s pretty loud, too (it maxes out your phones volume).  You will, however, want to keep your Lookout account private.  Otherwise, your roommate might be tempted to make your phone start screaming while you’re out on opening night of La Boheme.

Samsung Fascinate: Bada-Bing, Bada-Boom!

Here is what happens when some corporate mooks take a perfectly amazing product and intentionally fuck it up.

The phone is awesome.  4″ AMOLED screen.  Excellent camera.  Terrific battery life.  Verizon network.  1 GHz processor.  Android.  If you stop there, you might have the best phone ever.

Now enter the mooks.

Apparently, someone at Microsoft bought a Verizon exec a fat line of coke and a $50 blow job at the Cabaret Royale.  Bing search is so cooked into this phone that you cannot even CHANGE to Google – for everything (search, maps, nav, everything).  Verizon has actually gone out of its way to fucking HIDE the Google Search widget from the Android Market.  Hello?  This is Android.  From Google.  And.  I.  Can’t.  Fucking.  Use.  Fucking.  Google.

IF I LOVED BING I WOULD USE A WINDOWS PHONE.

Attention Ivan Seidenberg: identify the mook in charge of this decision, and immediately sell him to AT&T.  They’ll love that dickhead over there.

And, Ivan, if you happen to be the mook who made that decision, I have a recommendation.  Over the next few weeks, a few hundred thousand of these phones are going to be returned because they don’t offer Google search.  Take each and every one of them and… yeah, you know what to do with them.

Here’s how awesome the phone is: I am considering keeping it and hacking Bing out of it.  It’s really a terrific phone.  Verizon, please, please, please, please, please, please undo this decision with all possible speed.

Please.

HTC EVO Summary

Owning the HTC EVO is like owning a Ferrari with a one-gallon gas tank in a land of dirt roads.

This phone is awesome: Front and rear cameras.  The best camera on a phone, ever.  An amazing display.  1GHz processor.  4G.  Hotspot.  Sexy UI.  Swype (beta).  It’s sleek, beautiful, powerful, and fun.  Like a Ferrari.

Here’s the one-gallon gas tank: battery life is about 4 hours, when I use it like I use my Droid (whose battery has only gone empty on me once or twice in the year I’ve owned it).  It’s epically FAIL.  Just doing basic stuff on it can drain the battery by 50% in an hour.

Here’s the dirt roads: Sprint’s network blows.  I’ve been on Verizon for five years now, having switched from Nextel, AT&T and Sprint.  So, sure, I’m spoiled.  But Sprint’s network is just lousy.  Even when I get 100% signal strength, over 1/2 the time, the data network is dead.  I’ve used the 4G bandwidth some, and occasionally, it’s faster IRL than Verizon’s 3G, but usually, it’s a lot slower.  It doesn’t matter if the underlying network is capable of 6 Mbps if it is only 10% available.

So the EVO is going back.  What a terrible pity.  I will definitely miss it.  But I need a phone I can really use, and I cannot use the EVO.

Samsung Epic 4G AMOLED vs. HTC EVO 4G LCD Screen First Impressions

I had a chance today to do a hands-on comparison between the two major 4G contenders from Sprint: the HTC EVO and the brand-new Samsung Epic.  Let me cut to the chase: I found the Epic’s AMOLED display to be unusable.

The Epic’s brilliant, colorful AMOLED leaps out at you with brilliant, oversaturated colors that make your existing phone look black-and-white, while the EVO’s LCD display humbly displays a neutral, normalized color palette.

On first impression, the Epic grabs your attention. “WOW, look at THAT!”  Images and videos just POP to life in a way you’ve never seen before.

But, on second impression, the AMOLED display comes up short.

The first thing you’ll notice is that whites are blue, not flat white.  Oversaturated colors pop at first, but eventually you start to see them as actually oversaturated.  These are minor problems, but problems nonetheless.

The major problem – the dealbreaker – is text.  The AMOLED display is incapable of rendering smooth font edges.  Instead of a nicely-blurred edge, individual pixels appear, resulting in difficult-to-read text.  The smaller the font, the more obvious the problem, as the eyes focus on tiny font details that turn into individual pixels.

It appears to me that the pixels in an AMOLED display are each surrounded by a tiny black border.  This is unnoticeable when displaying photos or videos, but black-on-white text – or white-on-black text – clearly shows the shortcoming.

I was hopeful that the Epic could be my new phone, but it and its Galaxy S brethren are now crossed off my list.  AMOLED fail.

Ubuntu’s Multimedia Challenge

Having used Ubuntu exclusively now for a few weeks, I am a true believer.  It’s just a great operating system, with great looks, speed, and power.  And it does almost everything a modern platform should.

Until you need multimedia power.  Specifically, photos, music, and video.

Ubuntu’s photo managers, like F-Spot, Shotwell, and the like are all hopelessly simple.  They tend to choke on large collections.  The first time I started F-Spot, I pointed it at the folder containing my photos and watched it die a miserable death.  They don’t organize well by metadata: sort by date, or sort by folder.  That’s it.  They either don’t connect to photo sharing websites, or connect only very clumsily.  The editing capability is terribly lacking.

Here, the paradigm is Picasa.  Picasa handles importing, organizing, simple editing, and uploading to a sharing site with absolute aplomb.  It is super fast, handles huge collections with ease, is very easy to use, and is surprisingly powerful.

Picasa is available as a download from Google (it isn’t available through the Ubuntu software manager) and only runs as a WINE app.  It’s stuck on version 3.0 and there is no sign of a future release, even though Google remains staunchly pro-Linux.  Nevertheless, Picasa 3.0 running under WINE is far better than any native Linux alternative.

In order for Ubuntu to succeed in the mainstream, it needs native Picasa, or a sufficiently robust alternative.

Next up is music.  The default player, Rhythmbox, is woefully inadequate.  I was sorely put to the test when I tried to perform the most basic of music management tasks: create a playlist and put it on my iPod.  I created the playlist easily enough, but found there was no way to copy it to the iPod.  FAIL.  Undaunted, I copied the tracks from the playlist to the iPod, then created a new playlist on the iPod and dragged the tracks into it.  This almost worked, except that when I tried to order the tracks to my liking, I found that they remained in the original order on my iPod.

And then when I tried to rename the playlist, Rhythmbox crashed.

Here there is One App to Rule Them All.  iTunes?  Ha!  I scoff at the suggestion.  Nay, not iTunes.

MediaMonkey.  Far and away the best music management app, ever.  By a longshot.

If all you do is buy songs from iTunes and play them in iTunes and on your iPod, then iTunes might be good enough for you.  And it would be better than any of the native Linux alternatives.  Of course, iTunes on Linux ain’t happening.

But if you have a complex mess of MP3s, FLACs, stuff your friend loaned you on a flash drive, songs you ripped from your CDs, and other serious organizational tasks, MediaMonkey’s database-driven design puts everything else to shame.

In order for Ubuntu to succeed as a mainstream OS, it needs music management software on par with MediaMonkey.

I’ve already mentioned how badly I hit my head on video editing.  I don’t expect Ubuntu to ship with a free copy of Vegas.  But the existing video apps are super weak.  Let’s pick one and run it over the NLE goal line, OK?

At least Ubuntu runs VirtualBox well.  I will need it for a few Windows apps that I’m not going to be able to leave behind.

At least, not yet.

Google Voice FAIL

Recent message transcription from Google Voice:

I’d love to be back on my staff. If the i’m on the put. Could be a me telephone and I’m Mesa. Maybe Clinton you’re leaving was on the within these things. But if it works isn’t gonna get there, and we had a second two passes. Bye.

I love it when a good plan comes together.

Not Moleskine. Ecosystem.

I’m a big Moleskine fan.  Besides their awesome notebooks, their small planner worked wonders on my ability to keep my poop in a group.

Today I discovered Ecosystem.  It’s like someone took everything that was great about Moleskine, and made it with a better cover, brighter, heavier paper, and clearer print.  Then they decided to make it out of 100% recycled materials right here in the good old USA.

If you like Moleskines like I do, then check out Ecosystem.  They rock.

Ubuntu: Video Editing FAIL

Well this time I really have bumped my head hard on Ubuntu.

Video editing apps are simply a shambles.  The default editor, PiTiVi (which apparently is Ubuntu-speak for “PiTiFul”) is terrible.  Editing is a joke.  It would take all morning to list my complaints, which isn’t worth my time.  Just suffice to say, it sucks.

I installed a half-dozen competing editors and found that the only app that comes close to being usable is Kdenlive, which is still pretty hard to use.

This is all to be expected, and is why I kept my Windows machine for multimedia editing.  But if you are planning a switch to Ubuntu, and expect to get any multimedia work done on it, watch out.  The apps are very, very weak at this time.

Ubuntu: PowerWIN

Update to previous post: I downloaded and installed the Linux ATI video driver for my Lenovo T400.  Immediately my battery life doubled.  I am now seeing battery life roughly comparable to Windows 7 – approximately three hours.  Additionally, the heat generated by the computer is much lower than with the old driver.  Apparently, the video GPU was just cranked up to 100% all the time.

If you use Ubuntu on a notebook, and are suffering poor battery life, a good place to start is with your drivers.  Who would have guessed a video driver would make THAT great a difference?

Ubuntu: PowerFAIL

I’ve been living in a completely Ubuntu world for over a week now, and am still loving the experience overall.  However, one thing has definitely given me pause: Ubuntu clearly consumes more power on my Lenovo T400 than Windows 7 ever did.

Typical battery life for me in Windows 7 was a solid three hours.  With Ubuntu, I am getting no more than 90 minutes.  That’s about a 50% reduction in battery life – similar to the results posted a couple of months ago by Phoronix.

I love Ubuntu, even if I can’t improve the battery life, so I’ll try some tweaks to see if I can improve the results.

By comparison, PowerWIN is clearly the Dell Mini9 Hackintosh.  No spinning disk, no fan, 9″ monitor, and MacOS gives it a typical battery life of well over four hours.  I’ve seen it run for over five hours if the monitor is dimmed.

Now I need to close this post.  I have only 10% battery left and my PC is about to die.

Ubuntu: The Time Has Come

I’ve messed around with the Ubuntu operating system off and on for several years.

It’s an important concept: a Linux distro focused on simplicity, usability, and mass appeal.  Unix has been the “next big thing that never happened” since the 1970s.  Linux was supposed to be the killer implementation, and Red Hat and other companies did a good job at creating compelling server-side distros, but no Linux distributions have ever been sufficiently end-user-friendly to displace Windows and Mac on the desktop.  For years it’s been next to impossible to find drivers for the myriad of hardware that’s required on the desktop for things like cameras, scanners, joysticks, etc.. And applications for Linux – while available – often lack the polish of Windows or Mac apps, and typically must be compiled for the user’s target operating system… needless to say, this is not the sort of process for Joe User.  Problem is, the typical Linux user thinks this process is Just Fine Thanks due to a hundred technical reasons that nobody cares about, so for years, change has come very slowly.

Ubuntu and its benefactor Canonical have been working diligently to make a Linux distro that’s truly user-friendly – something that could truly compete in the free market against Windows and Mac.  I installed Ubuntu for the first time about three years ago, and found it to be interesting – even compelling in many ways – but like always, the drivers and lack of software prevented me from living with it.  I used MS Office apps, and the replacement, OpenOffice, was too underpowered for me, and drivers for much of my hardware were unavailable or inadequate.

Things have been changing, and I have now switched to Ubuntu on all of my computers except my Hackintosh and the DAW at Pleasantry Lane.  While the software is still less-than-enough, I have found that over the past few years my dependence on MS Office has waned significantly due to two factors:

  • MS Office has failed to advance in usefulness
  • Cloud apps like Google Docs have become worthy alternatives

For photo management, nothing touches Picasa, which works better on Windows and Mac than on Linux.  But it does run on Linux (are you listening, Google?).  For music management, nothing touches Media Monkey, but I can use Ubuntu’s default player “Rhythmbox” well enough.  Oracle offers a strong, free, VMWare-compatible virtual host called VirtualBoxOSE that has helped ease my Windows separation anxiety: if something comes up that requires Windows, well, I still have Windows.

I used to do primarily Windows based development.  But, increasingly, I’ve come to see the light on using VMs for development since they make it so easy to have clean, isolated development environments that are easy to push back and forth to production VMs, so running a dev environment in a virtual machine isn’t really a problem if I want to do Windows development.  And besides, increasingly, I’ve been itching to do more *nixy development, like Python, Ruby, MySQL, and CouchDB which I can do natively on this machine (though I’ll probably use a VM for them as well).

Other, bundled software is pretty nice.  There is OpenOffice, which has matured significantly.  There’s Gwibber (a social-media client) and Empathy (a chat client).  Remote Desktop (for Linux boxes) and Terminal Server clients are both built-in.  I spend a lot of time in text editors – and really like the Gedit editor a lot, enough to turn my back willingly on EditPad Pro.  There’s the Evolution mail and calendar client which, like Outlook, I doubt I’ll ever need, since Gmail rocks.

Drivers seem stable, solid, and plentiful.  The only device on any of my computers that doesn’t work in Ubuntu 10.04 is the fingerprint reader on my Lenovo notebook.  Other stuff works surprisingly well.  Integrated camera?  Just works.  HP all-in-one network printer/scanner/fax?  Just works.  Things that used to get Linux boxes really confounded (like Sleep mode) work great now.  Heck, even Bluetooth works.

Other things are such a pleasure.  Boot up time into Ubuntu, once the computer has left the startup screen, is literally one second on my Lenovo (which has an SSD).  Networked computers all see each other nicely and play well together.  The UI is slick and powerful.  Fonts render better in Firefox than in any Windows or Mac browser, making web surfing more pleasurable.  The installation process is super-painless – easier than installing Windows 7 or Snow Leopard.  Ubuntu One is nifty.  The Ubuntu Software Center maintains a convenient list of easily-installable, compatible, and free apps that automatically compile and install in seconds.

It’s fast.  It doesn’t crash.  And it’s virtually virus-proof.

Did I mention it’s free?

Wha Happa?

So… if you follow me at all, you know that this spring, I sorta vanished.  As in, I was impossible to reach and all of my websites went dark.

Well, it’s like this.

In February, my Dad went into the hospital for what was to be the last time.  He had a rough time in his last few weeks, and I spend a lot of time at the hospital.  I had to cancel my plans to meet my friends Russell and David in France for the Jean-Michel Jarre tour and stay in Dallas to tend to him, and to organize a funeral.

While all this was going on, a team of Turkish hackers broke into my Windows box and hacked all of the websites that I host: ProRec.com, RipRowan.com, Pleasantrylane.com, WebCulture.net, and a few others.  It was an unmitigated disaster.

Fortunately, I learned my lessons from my last catastrophe, and I had a backup.  Or so I thought.  My backup device, which had been working, finally failed.  All of my backups were lost.  I still have the content (in the SQL databases) but the pages – they’re gone.

It never ends, does it?

In the meantime a had a bazillion personal responsibilities – including helping out on the new Old 97’s CD “The Grand Theater” – and traveling all over with Vanessa.  I’ve only recently settled temporarily in Austin for a bit so that I can catch up.

I am just now getting back to recovering the sites.  Brent Randall relaunched ProRec on a new hosting service, and we’re working on getting the old content migrated.  I’ve relaunched RipRowan.com here on WordPress.  PleasantryLane will come back soon, as will WebCulture.net.

Nevertheless, it still makes one consider a career in food or custodial services.

Help Me Decide!!!

So I find myself in possession of one too many computers, and I need your help.  Which one should I get rid of?

Computer one is my Hackintosh.  This one is not up for debate.  I have to keep this computer.  This little Dell Mini 9 running Snow Leopard is so useful I wonder how I ever lived without it.  I only note it because…

Computer two is my Lenovo T400 notebook.  As a notebook, it’s a hoss.  8 GB of RAM, 128 GB SSD, 320 GB 7200 RPM data drive, WXGA+, you name it, it’s got it. Even a “real” docking station.  It’s awesome, and if I ever get around to doing more “real” consulting work, I’ll need a good notebook PC.  But then, there’s…

Computer three – the StudioCat Ultra DAW workstation.  6 GB RAM, Intel i7 975 Extreme Edition, 3 TB of disk, in an awesome Antec P183 case.  It’s big, it’s solid, it’s deathly quiet, and an amazing workstation.

So I need to get rid of number 2 or number 3.  I don’t need two portable computers… unless I get a consulting gig that demands one.  And I don’t need all the power of the StudioCat PC… but it’s pretty amazing.

I don’t need all three.  Which one do I dump, and why?