Archive for February, 2007

Get your Litotes here…they aren’t half bad!

This thing has been nagging me for a few months now. There is this “grammatical” construct, where you use the negative of the opposite of something to mean that thing.

Fogo de Chao’s food wasn’t bad (to say that the food was good)

I’m not ungrateful (to say that I am grateful)

That was no small achievement (to say that it was a great achievement)

Turns out that it isn’t grammatical, but rhetorical, at least according to Wikipedia.

How did I ever come across this, you wonder? Well, I subscribe to Merriam-Webster’s Word-of-the-Day email newsletter, and it was one of the WotD’s, probably back in the early 00’s. I read it, said to myself, “Self…what a not unsatisfying word to describe constructs that you use all the time!” And then I promptly forgot the word, hence the nagging feeling I mentioned.

Finally, I got fed up wondering to myself what the word was, and to just dig as much as I could through the online reference materials (read: Wikipedia and Google), and try and find and remember what the stupid word is!

I started with searching for “double-negative” (thanks to Scott, who I went to first with my search for the name of this construct…being all endowed with an English degree and what not). That led me to this Wikipedia article, which had, near the bottom, a section on “double-negative to mean a positive”. Eureka! There it was plain as day.

Now, ladies and gentlemen of the Blogosphere, now you can rest easy knowing that someone out there, at some point, thought it not so unhelpful to name this peculiar figure of speech!

By the way, it’s pronounced “LIE-toh-tez”, not “LIE-TOTES” as I originally thought; it’s not the plural of Litote. Silly me; I should have brushed up on my Greek!

How much HDTV can I get for $1000?

Yahoo! My first Electronics Dude question.

Janice says:

37 – 42″ LCD with the biggest bang for the buck, since I won’t spend much more than 1000 of them.

Well, Janice, after doing a little research, I have some good news and some bad news.

First, the bad news. There are no LCD TV’s between 37″ and 42″ that are less than around $1599. For $1000 or less, today you can only get 32″ or smaller.

But who wants smaller right? This is the era of the biggest, awesomest, newfanglest, HDTV you can afford!

The good news, though, is that 6 to 9 months ago, there weren’t any LCD TV’s in that size range for less than $2499. [A $900 price-drop in less than a year is quite ridiculous; how do these guys stay in business???] You won’t have to wait very long before the right TV, in the right size, at the right price comes along. Also, the 42″ range is right around where PDPs (Plasma Display Panels) and LCD Panels converge in size, so you should see lots of price volatility in that space. Along the same lines, when you hit the 42″ range, you might also consider a PDP (even considering my qualms with Plasmas smaller than 50″, they still look gorgeous).

So, what do you do now? I would suggest you check out these models, and as soon as they hit the magic price point (which I would almost bet money they will in the next 4 months), you can rest assured you’re getting the most for your money when you buy one. At a very high level, I would go with only three brands for LCD panel HDTVs: Sharp, Sony, and Samsung, in that order. They are the top three manufacturers (at least at the end of 2006).

First, Sharp’s Aquos LC-42D62U or LC-37D42U.

The first is the newest 42″ model, so there’s a price premium on them in the near term (Circuit City has a sale price of $1899 right now). The 42″ is full-HD 1080p resolution (making it, arguably, more future proof), is bigger, has loads of digital video inputs (2x HDMI, 2x component), and a great contrast ratio.

The latter is a 37″ model, but is the previous generation. It supports a 720p resolution, which, on paper, is less than the 42″ model, but still 100% gorgeous with all of today’s content (both of my HDTV’s at home are 720p). It has the same number of digital video inputs, and the same contrast ratio. Because it’s the previous panel generation, it might get harder to find, and there seem to be a dearth of sub-40″/super-32″ models across the board.

I own the 26″ Aquos; it’s in the bedroom and performs very nicely.

Next, Sony’s Bravia LCD line. Look at the KDL40S2400 or KDL40V2500. These are both 40″, current generation panels, from Sony, and have some pretty amazing specs.

The V2500 has a 1080p video resolution, has 2x HDMI, and 2x component inputs. The S2400 differs only in its 720p resolution. These have a slightly better contrast ratio than the two Aquos TVs above, but you’ll pay nearly $700 more than the 42″ Aquos. I attribute this to the Sony brand-premium, but they do make great products. The retail price for the V2500 has already dropped nearly $750 from the $3000 suggested retail, which puts it at about $2250. I’d expect to see this TV near $1500 by summertime.

One thing to note about the Sony’s…don’t be dazzled by the XBR TV’s, Sony’s highest-end models. They fetch a crazy premium, and while having identical or nearly-identical specs as their non-XBR cousins, differ only in their exterior cabinet style or minor on-board speaker power. Owning an XBR is more about bragging rights than anything, in my opinion.

Finally, Samsung. Like Sony and Sharp, they have competing models in the 40″ range, differing only be resolution, but with a bewildering number of options. The LN-D4041D/51D/52D are the previous gen panels, with slightly less contrast ratio compared to the current-gen 92D (which has a different backlight technology). They are all 720p resolution TVs, and range from $1499-$1799 retail. The 1080p LN-S4096D is Samsung’s sweetspot, with near identical specs to the 92D, save the higher resolution. Samsung also has the dubious distinction of having TV’s with a white-colored bezel. If that design aesthetic is appealing to you, the 52D is a good choice.

Okay, so sum up. You’ve got $1000 you want to spend (now), and you’d like a TV between 37″ and 42″. You still have a few options as I see it.

  1. Wait. I’ve said this to people before, the great thing about HDTV’s is that you don’t have to rush out and buy a TV! If you put off purchasing for even short period of time (like 3 months), the better the TVs become, and they can be had for even less money.
  2. Check out one of the 32″ models. They are all sub-$1000 right now, and while they would mathematically be slightly smaller than 32″ or 37″ tube TV you have now when showing non-widescreen/boxy content, they are just as big if not slightly bigger when showing wide-screen, HD features or DVD movies.
  3. Check out some of the 42″ plasmas. As I said, the 40-42″ range is extremely volatile right now because that is around where PDPs and LCDs converge in size. I won’t extemporize PDP v. LCD in this post, I’ll save that for later, but there are different considerations when buying a plasma.

Hope that helps! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. And if any of my other readers have any HDTV, Home Audio, Speakers, or general electronics questions, go ahead and leave ’em in the comments, too!

Virtual PC 2007 on Vista … a test!

Microsoft just released a new version of their hosted virtualization product called Virtual PC 2007. One of the big bullet points is that it is designed to perform best on Windows Vista. Luckily, I have Windows Vista installed on my laptop at work, and I figured I would try to prove just how well it does perform.

Initially, I was going to perform a head-to-head comparison with VPC 2007 and VMWare Server on Vista, but alas, VMS is not compatible with Vista. I’ve read that one should expect Vista-compatibility in the next version of VMS.

First off, here’s where you can download Virtual PC 2007.

Now, I’m running VPC on my Windows Vista laptop, which is a Dell Latitude D820, with a 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo, dual-core processor, with 2GB of RAM, a 7200-RPM 100GB Hard Drive, and an on-board Intel 945 Graphics chipset. I freshly defragmented my laptop’s hard drive, before installing VPC, just to make sure the HDD would perform as fast as possible.

Installing VPC was a snap. Simply launch the setup.exe as an administrator (in order to avoid the annoying User Account Control prompts). Less than five minutes later, it’s up and running, without requiring a restart.

Setting up a Virtual Machine (VM) couldn’t be easier. Click on New… follow the wizard through creating a virtual machine, choosing the “guest” OS. You can choose nearly every flavor of Windows Desktop and Server Operating Systems, OS/2, and the invariably enigmatic “Other” OS (which probably means some variant of Linux).

One cool thing is that the wizard chooses the minimum recommended RAM for the OS you chose. One odd thing is that the default size for the Virtual Hard Drive (VHD) that you attach to the VM is 100% of the free space left on your local hard drive; be careful to change this! Filling up your hard drive is a good way to force you to rebuild your computer.

Once you’ve configured your VM, click Start on the VPC Console dialog, and the VM powers on and begins to boot. There isn’t actually an OS installed on the VM, so you’ll need to attach a bootable CD or image file to the VM and go through the full OS installation steps, easy enough via the CD… menu option.

VPC Console

I went with Windows XP for my initial VM, with 256MB of RAM, and a 4GB Virtual Hard Drive. I figured that going through an installation of XP along with all 80 or so of the critical and optional updates that are required for a fresh build, would put VPC through its paces.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at just how well it performed! Installing and patching XP didn’t take perceptibly any longer than when I’ve installed XP on full-physical hardware in the past (even on this same laptop). I was doing everything I would normally do on my laptop, while the XP VM was installing and patching, without any perceptible loss in performance. Launching Outlook 2007 and reading my email, browsing the web, working in Excel, all seemed as zippy as ever. In fact, I was able to rip (ahem…backup) two audio CD’s to Windows Media Audio Lossless format without a hiccup! That last is remarkable since a lossless compression of an audio file is extremely calculation-heavy.

Startup and Shutdown of the VM, too, didn’t seem to affect my normal activities. Also, these operations executed very quickly.

I did a little digging into the task manager and performance monitor on my laptop while running this VM. At startup, the CPU Utilization rarely rose higher than 50%, similarly at Shutdown. If the VM was just sitting there on the login screen, the CPU usage base-lined around 5-10%, which means there is a slight overhead for running the VM, but not terrible. The memory utilization on my laptop expanded to include the 256MB VM, but didn’t go beyond that, which is what I expected.

Overall, I’m really impressed with the ease of use and performance of Virtual PC 2007 on Windows Vista. And best of all, it’s completely free!

When a Vista-compatible version of VMWare Server is released, I’m looking forward to comparing this experience with that platform. Stay tuned!

VPC Running while I'm blogging about VPC

Why do 42” Plasmas have a 4:3 aspect ratio resolution?

For a while now, if someone asked me what I thought about Plasma HDTV’s that were less than 50″, I would say, “Back away slowly…there’s something wrong with ’em!”

I had good evidence for that. They have a native pixel resolution of 1024×768. That is a 4:3 aspect ratio, not 16:9, which is the normal widescreen aspect ratio that any HDTV worth a damn must have. So how do all the PDP (Plasma Display Panel) manufacturers sleep at night pushing this bogus resolution on us?

I turned to the HT Guys to help answer the question. I recently started listening to their HDTV Podcast, and was impressed by the breadth of knowledge that they possessed, while at the same being accessible and comprehensible even to the lay person.

It turns out that there’s a simple explanation, although not necessarily a satisfactory on in my opinion.

That’s one of mankind’s unsolved mysteries.  Technically, because HD is measured by horizontal lines of resolution, those televisions are HD (they have more than 720 lines).  However as you pointed out, they don’t have the full width necessary to get a complete 16:9 image, that would require at least 1280×720.  To get a 4:3 aspect ratio on a 16:9 screen, they use rectangular pixels.  Strange huh?

It’s done for manufacturing purposes, and has always been that way.  But we’ve never heard a really good answer for why.  But that strange resolution means everything you watch on your TV has to be scaled, even 4:3 content.  You can’t even go pixel for pixel at 1024×768 since the rectangular pixels would look funny.  That doesn’t mean that they don’t look good.  They still look great, but everything has to be scaled.

If you want a flat panel in the 40-42″ size range, with a native 16:9 aspect ratio, you need to get an LCD.

There you have it my friends. Rectangular pixels! Even with this suspicious explanation, in the Electronic Dude’s opinion, steer clear of PDP’s in this funny resolution. That means, if you are getting a plasma, don’t get anything less than 50″!

Thanks, HT Guys, for the explanation. Keep up the good work!

Exchange 2003 and Daylight Savings Time Fracas

For those of you who don’t know, the U.S. Congress enacted a law in 2005 that changes the start and end time of Daylight Savings Time (DST) in the U.S. effective this year.

There’s a huge body of knowledge of what technologies this affects, and many (if not all) technology companies are scrambling to certify their applications and products as DST 2007 compliant.

At Wharton Computing, we’ve been struggling with the ramifications of the DST 2007 update, especially around user calendars/appointments/meetings on our Exchange 2003 Mailbox servers.

Last night, we finally (it’s been available for nearly three weeks) applied the Exchange-specific DST update to our mailbox and Outlook Web Access (Webmail) servers, after our Technical Account Manager urged us to wait until more substantial documentation as well as Outlook and Exchange specific “Time Zone Update Tools” were available.

That’s the only the first (and probably the easiest) step. We still have to run a process that goes through each mailbox and updates every affected entry on every mailbox we care about. Oh, and we have to test everything, too, before doing it.

Thankfully, the MS Exchange Team blogged step-by-step instructions on how to use the Exchange TZ Update Tool. These instructions drastically simplified the previously extant instructions from MS Support…well, maybe not simplified, but sure made it clearer!

There are a couple of missing pieces, though.

  1. The KB article includes a script to add mailbox permissions for a user, which are required when updating user calendars from the “server-side”. The script uses an obscure LDAP attribute of the user object (legacyExchangeDN) in order to populate these permissions. I don’t understand why we couldn’t just feed it a list of email addresses or usernames!!! There’s no easy way to output this attribute for each user, unless you have mad Perl skillz like Dave. With his help, we were able to pull the legacyExchangeDN attribute we needed to run the permissions script.  You can grab this script here.
  2. This script can *only* be run on a computer that has the Exchange System Manager installed.
  3. The Exchange TZ Update Tool *cannot* be run on a computer that has the Exchange System Manager installed.
  4. The Exchange TZ Update Tool can take *days* to complete in a larger environment. (this is well documented, but had to throw it in here as a pain-point)

Are you confused yet? Wait’ll you see the results of our tests after running the TZ Update tool.

  1. Recurring appointment that spans the new DST Period made from OWA
    1. Unchanged in Outlook
    2. Unchanged in OWA
  2. Single appointment during the new DST Period made from OWA
    1. Moved back one hour in Outlook
    2. Moved back one hour in OWA
  3. Single appointment during the DST Period made from Outlook 2007
    1. Unchanged in Outlook
    2. Unchanged in OWA
  4. Recurring appointment that spans the new DST made from Outlook 2007
    1. Unchanged in Outlook
    2. Unchanged in OWA
  5. Multiple executions of the TZ Update do not change the above. 

Number 2 gives me great consternation. I had assumed that the DST fix would “tag” these calendar items with the right timezone, and thus display correctly across all clients? I guess it’s only saving grace is that it’s consistent. All single appointments made during the new DST Period from OWA are moved back an hour.

Where does that leave us? In a befuddling morass, surely.

We still have to test Outlook 2003 in the above scenario, as well as the Outlook TZ Update Tool. We still have to figure out whether or not to run the Exchange TZ Update tool and just universally update everyone’s mailbox on every Exchange server we run. Do we update Students? How about Faculty? What do we do with Resource Accounts? What happens when a user runs the Outlooks TZ tool while we’re running the Exchange TZ tool? How can we possibly recover from either operation if something goes wrong?

Those questions are going to keep us on our toes for the next week or so. I hope, in the end, we come out the winner, and that everyone in Congress who voted for this gets an itchy rash.

Let’s go out and play in the snow!

Boyfriend sent me this picture via email, a picture of Ethel that he took while he was taking her out for her lunchtime/afternoon poopstitutional.

Ethel Snow Baby

It was so totally awesome, that I just had to leave work a little early and spend some time with Boyfriend and Ethel playing in the snow. Check out the other pictures on my Flickr stream (a sample of which should be on the right of this post!).

If anyone wants to come over and frolic in the snow with a 135-lb Newfie furball, come on down!

I killed a mouse, today.

We’ve got a little mouse problem. Well, not-so-little as they seem to be getting bigger and bigger as we take longer and longer to kill them.

Last week we trapped four of them on glue traps, but there was the one…the smart one…the big one…the motha’-fucka’ that just wouldn’t toe the line and put himself (or herself) on said traps and sacrifice himself for my peace of mind.

This morning…I was sitting on the shitter (I know, too much information)…and I watched as “The Big One” leaped off the bathroom sink and scurried under the door. First of all, I was really proud of myself because I didn’t squeal at the top of my lungs like a pre-teen girl (although if it had crawled on my feet or some such, falsetto wouldn’t begin to describe the sound you’d hear).

Second of all…THERE WAS ANOTHER ONE! I thought the first one was “The Big One”…this was “The Bigger One”! It didn’t leap off the bathroom sink like tBO. No…tBerO decided to just saunter across the sink, meander really, and plant himself between the backsplash and my toiletry bag.

Mistake for tBerO! I balled up my fist and **SMASHED** the toiletry bag, with its bar of soap, bottle of lotion, and … hey *that’s* where my comb went! … anyway smashed it ***SMASHED*** the toiletry bag against the backsplash.

I moved the bag away, and peeked right into the eyes of tBerO; I didn’t think it was dead at first, but of course, an alive tBerO wouldn’t be just hanging around watching me watching him.

All the commotion woke up Boyfriend, luckily, since now the adrenaline was starting to fade away, I couldn’t even be anywhere near the mouse carcass. And then the reality of the situation draped across me like a silk veil: I’M A MOUSE MURDERER!

Any minute now, Mouse Briscoe and Mouse McCoy were going to come after me on Mouse Law & Order and put me in front of a Mouse Judge where the Mouse A.D.A. was going to convince her that I was responsible for Mouse-Murder in the First Degree! And I’d get convicted, too, because a) I look like a Mouse Murderer and b) that A.D.A. is *really* good at her job.

On the flip side, Boyfriend is calling me his “Manly Mouse Hunter”. ***blush***


Change a Lightbulb, change the world!

It only takes 18 seconds to change a bulb. If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an energy-efficient bulb, together we could save enough energy to light more than 2.6 million homes for a year. Find out how you can save energy and cash by making the switch to energy-efficient light bulbs... and check out how many have already sold in your area.

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Coconut Trees

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February 2007
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