Back and caught up

Well, mostly.  Anyway, I have returned and apparently the site I thought would link to my HPX page never did so (EDIT: there was a post there- I just missed it and so apparently did everyone else!), so there are no comments there.  In the last couple of days I have caught up on much of the internet news I read, though I still have several days of newspapers to read.  I really should give those up completely and just go to the paper’s website for the local news, and comics.com for the comics.  I was a little disappointed B.C. finally ended a few weeks ago and was replaced with a pretty bad comic about a sheep and a dog- Deflocked I believe is the title.  Of course B.C. had to go since its writer passed on a few months ago.  I will meet him once I go home myself, along with other figures like C.S. Lewis and of course the many faithful in the Bible.  Not for a long time though, God willing.

The cabin I had was quite young and in some cases difficult.  There were two who were prone to distraction and I feel the small group time I had with them following lessons was not where it could have been.  Mine was the only cabin in fact who did not even make it to the final flag raising on Saturday morning, still cleaning the cabin.  We took over an hour to get ready, and even then I still had to go back and finish following breakfast.  But enough of the bad.  No one likes to read about that.

Every year there is something new at the camp.  The first year I was there they were finishing up the lodge where we have meals and lessons.  They had a big tent set up outside instead that year.  The second year the lodge was finished and they had a new instructional- rock climbing.  There is a small room on the bottom floor of the lodge with a rock climbing wall that extends to the roof two floors up.  That replaced disc  golf as an instructional.  More importantly, the lodge was air conditioned, and so were the cabins!  Ahh…  The third year I was there they added a zip line.  It is fun to go down it, but unfortunately after one got to the bottom there was a long hike around a lake to get back to the top.  They also added an amphitheater for outdoor worship.  This year’s addition was small, but it aided the zip line immensely.  A bridge over that lake.  No more long hike around the lake to get back.  Next year, who knows for sure, but there are plans for a baseball field and zip line improvements in the future.

The zip line was the general favorite part of camp for the kids in my cabin, but canteen time (where they could buy food and drinks, as well as have (guided) free time came in a close second.  The day was quite organized and there was much to do, including lessons, worship, small group, games, instructionals, meals, etc.  This could also be somewhat stressful as getting the kids to where they needed to be in a timely fashion when they all had needs like going to the bathroom (constantly!) and changing clothes wasn’t easy.

In the end it was nice to hear their thoughts on what they learned and enjoyed when handing out their dog tags at the end of the week.  My team was air force, so I “promoted” them from cadets to airmen.  Too bad I didn’t have wings to give them, but I did use some of my stimulus check (which I will receive soon) on t-shirts for my cabin.  I still have one left too.  Maybe I’ll take a picture of it and post it.  In fact, I will have to post some of the pictures I took at camp.  It should be relatively safe as I will not be identifying them, or the name of the camp (or my church for that matter 😛 ).  Besides, too few people actually read this thing anyway.  Look for those soon- I have well over 300 pictures and 90 videos to sort through to find some good ones.  Well, I have some more catching up to do- like reading my friend’s blogs. 😮

See you in a week

Well, I am off to my fourth summer camp with the 4th and 5th graders.  Sorry I didn’t come up with some pre-camp posts- the computer post took most of my time along with getting ready for this thing.  In any event, I am out of time so I will have to cut this post short too. Have a great week!

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The New HPX

Courtesy of absolutevista.com, I now have a new computer. This page will eventually tell about my experiences thus far, but for now enjoy the pictures. Click on each thumbnail for a larger picture. Be careful- some are quite large and will take time to show on a slow connection. Please excuse the quality as I am not a professional photographer by any means. Except for the desktop screenshots, all pictures were taken with my Kodak 4-megapixel Easyshare and edited with Corel Paint Shop Pro X2. The thumnail pics were done with IrfanView. Oh, if you see only one picture per line then resize your browser window. It should be friendly to 1024×768 resolution or higher. They should be two across.

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Closed BoxOpen Box

The box for the computer. Sorry for the shipping labels- they are pretty much permanent.

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AccessoriesInstructions

Some of the accessories and the setup instruction sheet. The power brick in the left picture is easily recognizable, but the others probably aren’t. They are an HDTV antenna (back), another antenna (FM I believe), a remote controller to use the included remote (pictured later) with another device like a TV, and a pair of headphones.

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Closed ViewKeyboard

The closed computer (left) and the computer opened up, at least the keyboard (right). Note that not only is the computer large enough to have a keypad on the right, it has room for a place to put the remote on the left! Just above the keyboard is a control panel that is lit up. These are touch-sensitive buttons- not just a cool display. There are closeups of this below.

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Panel 1Panel 2

The closeups are pretty much shown from left to right as they appear. The left picture starts with the power button, the only “real” button that actually goes down when you press it unlike the others. Next to the power buttons are three buttons that will load up HP’s Quickplay software with two buttons that will go right to the DVD/Blu-ray player or the external input (antenna or s-video). Those buttons are repeated in the right picture, and beside them are the standard controls you would see on a standard multimedia keyboard. Just to the right of that (not pictured) is a button that will dim the entire panel for “theater mode.”

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Panel 3Panel 4

On these two pictures you see slider controls that will adjust the volume or treble/bass. Pretty neat on the surface, but I found it really doesn’t work that well in practice. I found it much easier to tap the [-]/[+] buttons directly than to use the slider. Pressing the treble/bass button will switch between the two. An on-screen display pops up when you press either of these controls. To the far left is of course the mute button. Not shown to the left of that is a button that will turn off the wireless networking, both WLAN and bluetooth. The control on the far right opens the CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive. The light you see below the treble/bass slider is the num-lock light. The caps lock has a similar light.

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Fingerprint ReaderRemote

The picture on the right is a closeup of the fingerprint reader in the dead center of the control panel above the keyboard. The icons on either side are the theater mode (left) and wireless toggle (right) mentioned earlier. With UAC on Vista I have found this to be an incredible resource, saving me from having to type in the admin password every time I want to install something, run certain programs, or even delete unwanted icons from my desktop (whose idea was it to protect the desktop?!?). I have yet to check if the fingerprint reader can be used at the BIOS level, but I hope it can for security reasons. The picture on the right is a closeup of the included remote sitting in its bay to the left of the keyboard. The switch to the right of it releases the remote.

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Left1Left 2

Here are the ports on the left side of the computer. From left to right are two USB ports, the LAN port for wired networking, HP expansion port to connect to a docking bay or port replicator, VGA out, HDMI out, E-SATA port, 1394 (FireWire) port, digital memory card reader, and ExpressCard port.

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RightFront

Quite a bit less on the right since that is where the optical drive is. There are two more USB ports in addition to the drive. The picture on the right is of the ports on the front of the computer. As you can see, we have the IR remote sensor, microphone input, and two headphone inputs.

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Rear 1Rear 2

These two pictures are from the back of the machine. There are air vents on either side. In addition to that are the IR emitter port (remember the accessory above?), audio input, s-video input, antenna input, and audio output ports for 7.1 sound. I am a little confused at this because to this day I have not figured out how to get Quickplay (the only way to play Blu-ray, which can use 7.1 audio) to use anything but the left/right channel! I can play DVDs through another player and get 5.1 sound, but as I said only HP’s Quickplay will play Blu-ray.

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SizeSoftware

The left picture shows the stickers at the bottom corner. As you can see it comes with the Core2 Extreme (X9000), Vista (x64), and NVidia (8800M GTS). The right picture is a bad photo of the webcam just over the screen. An LED lights up when it’s on so there should be no surprises. I hope this is hard-wired so a hacker can’t turn the camera on without the LED lighting up. Um- excuse me while I find some electrical tape to cover it. I think it’s by my tinfoil hat… 😛 If you look closely, you will also see a microphone to the right of the webcam. The computer has two built-in microphones just above the screen on either side of the webcam.

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DriveDisc

The Blu-ray drive, with and without a disc. Since I have already seen the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, I chose to rent a Blu-ray movie instead to test this out.

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QuickplayBluRay

HP’s Quickplay software in action in select mode and full-screen mode.

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Enchanted 1Enchanted 2

Two more pictures from Enchanted. Notice how in the picture on the left the menu works a little differently from DVD movies. I am not sure if this is just Enchanted or other Blu-ray titles as well. Clearly you can do more with Blu-ray. Even some of the included games are a bit more involved than your standard DVD fare.

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SizeSoftware

In another attempt to show you just how large this computer is I have set a desktop keyboard on top of the HPX. As you can see, this computer is just as wide. There’s a little story with the keyboard comparison- one of the posts on Absolute Vista after their contest ended linked to a site that did a photo comparison with an HP tablet PC. Not knowing how a tablet PC compared with a regular laptop I wrote John back that it would have been a better comparison for me if they used a desktop keyboard instead, since they have a size most people know, or can at least understand just by looking in front of them. So I figured, why not? So here it is. Anyway, the picture on the right is the software I received as a bonus to the computer. Dead center on the bottom is Norton IS 2008. Though I hear Norton software has improved from its bloated, crippleware infamity, I still do not trust it. Notice in the screenshots below that Avast! and Comodo have replaced the previously Norton IS 2007 trial. I had thought Office 2007 was to come with this computer, but I guess I got Norton instead. Fortunately I already had a license from Microsoft’s ultimate steal promotion (Office 2007 Ultimate for $70!) last year. It pays to take continuing education classes sometimes…

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DesktopWindows

Two boring screenshots, with some lame site showing on the right. Okay, I am kidding. It is only thanks to their contest that I have this computer and am writing this right now, so it’s only right to give free advertisement for their site. 🙂 The desktop background is from a site where I found a lot of breathtaking pictures. Just underneath the taskbar is the name of the photographer, Rob Laddish. I forgot to bookmark his site, but I am sure a search on google or whatever engine you use will yield good results.

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Well, now that the eye candy is out of the way, how about some of my thoughts and stories? Well, after a few emails back and forth with John from AbsoluteVista, I received the two packages via FedEx. When John gave me the tracking number he forgot to tell me who was delivering it, so on my third try (tried USPS and UPS first) I found FedEx was going to deliver it, and so I headed home from work in anticipation and, nothing. I looked it up again and yep, it was on the truck to be delivered. I waited a bit, and a little after 5PM the van pulled up, and I was at the door before the delivery guy could ring the doorbell. I signed for it and I was ready to go. From the picture above, you can probably guess that the computer was not packaged inside another box to hide the contents from view, but it didn’t matter as it arrived safe and sound. I examined the computer box and saw that it had been opened before- probably John checked it out to make sure it worked. This was a potential concern if I wanted to sell it, and I did think about that considering the value of this thing. However, the want to keep this won out and here we are. I opened it up and realized that this thing was enormous for a laptop. Good thing I didn’t go out and buy a laptob bag for this- I think I will need an art bag (holds sketch pads) to transport this around!

Next up was the software box. Everything that was in this box is pictured above. Again, from the list on their website I was able to see that I received everything, with Norton 2008 apparently substituted for Microsoft Office, as the only Office on this computer was a 60-day trial. As I also said, it was no big deal since I already had Office 2007 Ultimate. Right away I installed Paint Shop Pro since I use this a lot. As soon as I do my week at camp this summer, I will be checking out Video Studio as well. The rest I saved for later.

I hooked up the computer, turned it on, and went through the initial setup. Vista had me create an account and finally I was looking at the Vista desktop for the first time. Incredible- what a difference. 1920×1200 resolution. Until now I had only used up to 1152×864. But- only the one account, and an administrator account at that? I thought Vista made people create a user account without administrator privileges? Well, in the interest of security I went ahead and did that, and now I am operating from a standard user account. One of the things it kept reminding me to do (other than registering) was to make a fingerprint profile to make logging in easier. I actually decided to skip this for awhile and just login by password. This lasted less than a week before I finally got tired of UAC asking me for the administrator password and registered two fingers to my administrator account. What a pain! It took untold amounts of swiping to even get it to tell me it got the finger, but I had to do it four times (turned into 30+!) to get to know the finger. Then more times than not, it would tell me that the fingerprints were no good and I had to start over?!? Well, it finally took and I decided (much later) to register two other fingers to my standard account, so now whenever I have to reboot or I just turn on my computer, the account I log into depends on what finger I choose to use to sign in. I still use the passwords from time to time so I don’t forget them though.

Well, time to install some of my own stuff. I quickly found out it was best to do this from the administrator account. UAC may come up with the “are you sure?” prompts, but at least I didn’t have to swipe my finger or enter a password. One of the first things I decided to install was a real mouse- I really hate touchpads. I will only use them if I have to. I uninstalled Norton 2007 right off. “Are you sure? You may lose your trial period…” Only a few times in my life have I ever been more sure. Next up, Avast, make a retore point, Comodo, and how about updating some drivers? I would start with the video drivers. I find on NVidia’s site that I would have to get them from HP or risk losing function of the media controls. Fine- I go to HP’s site and it wants the model number. Of course, HPX wasn’t good enough, it wanted “Pavilion xxx.” Naturally this was at the bottom, in the back. Always the most inconvenient of places. Carefully lifing it up and contorting myself so I could read it, I memorized it, entered it in, and voila! The drivers. Downloaded, went to install video drivers right away. Being video drivers the screen went blank at some point. You-know-whose law being what it is, the drivers fail at this point. I wait and wait, and nothing but a blank screen, so I can’t even find out what went wrong. Sigh. I reboot, restore, then find it lost my fingerprint information. Oh joy! Registration again. You know how that went, just like before. Comodo would have to be reinstalled too. The video drivers were in my download folder and were now gone thanks to Vista’s restore feature- yeah, restore the folder to its original empty configuration… No matter as I wouldn’t be trying those again. Hopefully future updates will go through the HP/Windows update features.

It is fortunate I have been using someone else’s computer for so long. It has kind of weaned me off of some programs so I really didn’t have much to install. There are a couple more things I want to install that were on my old computer, and I eventually will, but for now I am satisfied. Anyway, next up was to try the new media features, particularly blu-ray. Having seen the Pirates movies before, I decided to go rent a movie- Enchanted as you know from above. Excellent movie as I found out. And this computer does an excellent job playing them- not a single problem with the movie. Well, an annoyance. Quickplay apparently doesn’t save the position of the movie if you stop in the middle. When I wanted to continue, I had to go through everything again (blu-ray ad- why? I already have blu-ray and this is a blu-ray title!; previews- this is where the menu button/option comes in handy; FBI threats) before finally being able to find my place again. Moving on, I decided to try the media center. I went through the setup, hooked up the HD antenna that came with the computer, and found I only received a few channels on it. No sign of the multiple channels of one station my brother gets on his HDTV either, like PBS-1, PBS-2, etc. I guess I need a real antenna. I haven’t yet tried the satellite over s-video, but I will. And I will start doing some recording too.

How is it for games you might ask? Well, I can’t answer that as of yet- I have been a little busy getting acquainted with these things to give my freebies a try. When I get back from camp I will give Gears of War and Viva Piñata a go. I expect some nice speed and nice detail. I have tried MAME though. Definitely an improvement on frame rates. Some of the unplayables like California Speed, Gradius 4, and others have become more enjoyable if not full speed. California Speed gets about 65-75% in game, but San Francisco Rush only gets about 50%. For those who are not MAME-geeks, Seattle/Vegas games like these two require hardware not currently sold in the consumer market to get full speed, though some who have overclocked Core 2 CPUs to 4GHZ and beyond have gotten pretty close. Emulation requires a lot of power. Dreamcast emulation should be nice when I get around to it.

Video I have just started to get up and running again. A few of the apps I’m used to no longer work, like ProjectX, but others like avi.net and mediacoder seem to be working. So far the encoding speed has improved by 50-100%, but I expect when I find more 64-bit and more multi-threaded applications I will see this go up immensely. There will be more on this as I figure out what applications are best on this hardware/OS.

Now for a couple of disappointments. First off, the 5.1 sound in Quickplay- is this only allowed over HDMI? Why even bother with the analog 7.1 output then. At least other apps don’t have this restriction. I am still trying to figure out how to play blu-ray in Media Player Classic- it claims to be a blu-ray player, but it looks like certain codecs need to be installed by programs like PowerDVD, and I know pack-in versions of this and WinDVD don’t allow more than stereo sound. That’s only for the pay versions. I may have to invest in one. Another dislike is no SPDIF (digital audio) out. Apparently digital out is over HDMI only as far as I can figure. I know there are converters out ther, but they are expensive. There is also no s-video output, so I can’t use my analog TV as a second monitor for games or video (typical uses of mine). Again, there are converters available, like VGA to s-video, but they can be expensive or low-quality. The placement of the keys and touchpad have been problematic as I am not used to them. I had to find a tweak to disable the caps lock key after hitting it accidentally over and over again. As for the touchpad, there is a button to disable it. I kept gliding my thumbs over it when typing. I am more comfortable with a real mouse anyway. I have had issues with Vista x64 and applications I am used to using, but I guess it’s not much different from moving to XP from 98. Eventually I will get sorted out on this. The last thing is where do I find a laptop bag for this beast?? It won’t even come close to fitting in a regular bag! Okay, that one was kind of lame.

Where do I go from here? Well, a lot more testing is needed for sure, like with regular PC games and real 64-bit multithreaded video applications. More media center use as well. I have only had this for a few weeks after all. However, I will be away for a week so I won’t be updating this during that time. I suppose you can consider it finished- for now.

Oh, I almost forgot.  Click here to read the story I wrote for the contest.

Still working on the HPX page

So… take a break with this hilarious video titled The Great Office War.  I’ll see if I can dig up some others.

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

So this is the secret of teaching success!

[teachertube]http://www.teachertube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=9c69fa9c4bdede203c1e[/teachertube]

In case the embedded teachertube video above isn’t working (didn’t work for me) here’s the link, along with a couple just for fun:

How to succeed as a teacher

Hamster Dance……….Untitled but Funny

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Added blog to Friends

This is way late, but I have finally added my friend, C’s blog to my links on the left.  He told me about it about a month ago when he wrote on his experience with the Nintendo Wii, but for some reason I never added it and it slipped my mind until noticing it on another friend’s blog! So, consider this your birthday present! 😛

Well, at least until I think of what to get you since I forgot about it again-  I seriously need to get a wife to remember these things for me, though of course in return I will get pounded for forgetting her birthday, or worse- our anniversary.  Yes, I would be that stereotypical husband.

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New page!

If you look at the top of this page, you will notice a new link at the top.  Just click on this link and you will see some pictures of my new computer.  This page will be expanded soon, with descriptions of the pictures and more, but for now just click for some pics!  A 1024×768 resolution with your browser maximized will give you the best results.  Here is a preview- click now for more!  Oh, and before someone (you know who you are!) says anything about my writing a new page when the first one remains unfinished (for nearly four months… 😮 ) feel free to click on the other page link as well and you will find it finally finished! 😛

Closed ViewKeyboard

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The end (of subbing)

Well, it is truly the end for the year.  All districts have officially finished (well, one has a 50-minute day tomorrow, but that’s beside the point).  My last day of work, and only day this week, was Tuesday.  I was a little stressed from my organic chemistry class the first time I subbed in that classroom and because of that had one of the TAs complain about me, but Tuesday actually went fine.  I just let the TAs do the teaching- nothing I agreed on, but the one just automatically did the lessons.  The lessons were only in the morning mind you.  The afternoon was a rescheduled picnic.  When I arrived, I saw that last Wednesday was the scheduled field day with the picnic scheduled the following day.  When I read over the plans I found out the picnic was that day since it rained Thursday (and Friday, and Saturday, and… well you get the point).  Besides the picnic, with a regular fourth grade class- the class I was in was a self-contained special ed class with six students- with games all afternoon, the class watched a movie off of hulu.com, Fudge-a-Mania, based off of Judy Blume’s book, which was a sequel (published nearly 20 years later, and it’s not even the most recent one!) to her popular Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing book.  Interestingly enough, Florence Henderson and Eve Plumb played mom and daughter in this movie.  Of course, the movie was from 1995 so Eve’s character had her own children who were the focus of the movie.  Nope, none of the rest of the bunch were in it.

So, what do I write about now?  Well, at the moment it’s kind of up in the air.  I do want to write a longer piece on my new computer, which will probably appear on its own page so another site can link directly to it.  Aside from that, I don’t know.  I will probably do at least a couple of camp writeups as well at the end of the month, and maybe some preview from my last few years before I leave.  Well, enough for now.  Good night.