Woke up early to smell the breeze on the rain-drenched backyard which I cleaned-up a week ago. The flowers are starting to bloom and the grass are very green! Also, I have to clean the small hot-tub/spa that we have on the patio — ready for spring…after that very long winter!
It had been raining on the weekends which limited my yard-cleaning chores. I need to do some minor work on the bricks that overlay the patio. Some of them have to be cemented back to the base to prevent them from cracking. Most of the gaps between bricks need to be filled-up with cement as well.
On the serious side of things…California’s economy is in the doldrums these days. More than 10% of the labor force is unemployed. You’ll notice that quickly when you’re driving along the major freeways in the Bay Area. Traffic is very, very light on weekends while the rush hour seems to have disappeared on workdays.
Even though gas prices – around, $2.10 per gallon today…it was as high as $4.50 per gallon – have gone down dramatically during the last 3 quarters, fewer people seems to be driving these days. Which is good. California is probably the most wasteful gas consumer on this planet. I hope this state could be like Japan which is crisscrossed by commuter trains all throughout the islands to encourage more people to take public transportation!
On the tech side of things… with the economy down, I’m buying less gadgets and making full use of my current computers. No more every-quarter-CPU- updates for my PCs. I still have my Phenom X4 8650-based PC as the workhorse. My web server remains the PowerMac G5 that I had put into action more than 2 yrs ago – – it replaced the ancient PowerMac G4 which I kept in the attic to serve as a back-up.
What’s really new? The ROKU attached to the Sony HDTV that streams Netflix’s Watch Instantly movies now also streams Amazon.com’s latest Movie-On-Demand flicks – for a fee! I had to wire a separate gigabit Ethernet cable to the ROKU box – although, it only has a 100Mbps Ethernet port – to get the most out of these video streams.
The other gigabit Ethernet cable I had running to the HDTV was usurped by the DirectTV HD-DVR after I had configured the OnDemand feature a few months back. The catch with DirectTV’s OnDemand is that it will only stream unprotected .WMV files – aside from their default library of movies – to your HDTV. You could get a media server like Netgear’s Digital Entertainer series to stream almost every media format available on the Internet.
A cheaper but time-consuming fix would be to “un-DRM” any protected movies while converting them to .WMV files using software like Daniusoft’s Media Converter Pro. Once unprotected and converted to a .WMV file, any movie will now play back via the OnDemand – under Movies, Photos & More – feature of DirectTV. However, you can’t fast-forward nor rewind the movie via the remote control. Bummer… but it saves you, at least, $200 to $500 by getting that media server box.
What else? I dropped-by the Apple Store along Powell in SFO to get the 16GB iPod Nano after my version 3 Nano dried-up its 8GB space. I love the iPod Nanos because they are so unobtrusive, convenient and cute. The new iPod Nano (v4) has the same screen size as the v3s but comes with new firmware that includes the Genius feature.
The downside is that, you can’t use your old FireWire-based power adapter with these v4 Nanos. I had to go back to the store to get me the Component AV Cable kit – also includes the new Apple USB power adapter – to not only, juice-up my v4 Nano but also to connect my older v3 Nano to the HDTV. Very cool specially if you travel a lot.
iTunes in now on its 8.1 incarnation while the IE browser also sports version 8. But, I’m not very thrilled with the new features I saw on Windows 7 beta.
From here, I’m holding on the few dollars I had saved to buy the upcoming Palm Pre phone. I think it’s time for me to replace my trusty Nokia phone….Twitter.