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Windows MCE DVD Archiving How-To

May 31, 2005

The Nears have put together a step-by-step “zero click” method for archiving DVDs onto your Windows MCE 2005 system in such a fashion that they can be watched on your Media Center Extenders also. Best of all, it’s all done using shareware and freeware applications.

How would you like to be able to insert a DVD into your PC, have it recognize what movie was inserted, rip it down to WMV and tag it with title, plot, rating and all the extra goodies, then be able to watch it on your MCE, your MCE Extender, or your portable media center any time you want? Ya, me too.MainScreen

I’ve been searching for the perfect app for a long time, and as of my last attempt at ripping DVDs to play on the extender I had pretty much decided to give up. Too much effort and too much time. But the quest for a good way to rip DVDs goes on as my Disney movies continue on their path to destruction at the hands of my two-year old.

Media Center Show: DIY MCE

May 31, 2005

Ian Dixon talks about building your own Windows MCE 2005 system with Richard Schwab of MediaMadeEasy in this week’s Media Center Show podcast.

Richard’s site looks like it might be interesting, but since it basically doesn’t work in either Firefox or Safari, I guess I won’t be finding out for sure.

(Just a minor aside — even if you’ve got a Windows-centric product, having a site only works on IE isn’t doing yourself a lot of favors these days — for example, I use Windows to watch TV, and a Powerbook for most everything else. Even on Windows, I don’t voluntarily use IE for anything other than Windows Update — life’s just too short to spend it cleaning up spyware.)

Wash That Nasty Keyboard

May 31, 2005

If you’ve spilled something nasty in your keyboard, or if it’s got so much grime on it that it’s growing potatoes between the function keys, you might try giving it a spin through the dishwasher.

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This is your brain on Nonliteral

May 31, 2005

UCSD scientists appear to have identified the area of the brain responsible for processing metaphors.

Vilayanur S. Ramachandran of the University of California at San Diego and his colleagues tested four patients who had experienced damage to the left angular gyrus region of their brains. All of the volunteers were fluent in English and otherwise intelligent, mentally lucid and able to engage in normal conversations. But when the researchers presented them with common proverbs and metaphors such as “the grass is always greener on the other side” and “reaching for the stars,” the subjects interpreted the sayings literally almost all of the time. After being pressed by the interviewers to provide deeper meaning, “the patients often came up with elaborate, even ingenious interpretations, that were completely off the mark,” Ramachandran remarks. For example, patient SJ expounded on “all that glitters is not gold” by noting that you should be careful when buying jewelry because the sellers could rob you of your money.

(via BoingBoing)

Woxy Waxes Vintage Alternative

May 31, 2005

Woxy.com has launched a new “Vintage Alternative” audio stream, featuring artists from the “history of alternative” music.

Welcome to WOXY Vintage, the first new 24/7 streaming channel from WOXY.com dedicated to the history of Modern Rock, Alternative and Punk music. You’ll hear nearly 30 years of adventurous, innovative and influential music from The Velvet Underground, The Clash, Talking Heads, The Smiths, Depeche Mode and much more. Consider it your Modern Rock primer.

Your choice of high and low bandwidth Windows Media, MP3 or AAC+ streams—I’ve been listening all afternoon, and it sounds great.

(via GearBits)

Yahoo Music Hack

May 30, 2005

No details yet, but Om Malik is reporting that Yahoo’s new Music Store has been hacked, and it’s apparently possible to download unlimited free music without any DRM.

Doubtless this hole will get plugged very soon.

Yahoo Music service can be hacked by anyone to download all the music they want. Robert Chapin figured out how to do it. In a public press release he says, the flaw was discovered by his company, Chapin Information Services.

Windows MCE Plug-In Lists

May 30, 2005

Chris Lanier is reporting that he’s updated the extensive list of Windows Media Center Edition plugins at TheGreenButton. You can find the updated list here.

Similarly, “Ben’s House” has put up an updated list of add-ons for MCE. This one may be a little more convenient, as it links directly to each plugin.

It’s nothing short of amazing all of the add-ons there are out for MCE now.

Cool Those Beans

May 30, 2005

Over on INeedCoffee, James Cameron writes about the need to rapidly cool coffee beans as soon as they’re done roasting.

The number one problem in producing great coffee roasted at home is the failure to cool the roast quickly after roasting. Coffee is ”roasted” rather than “baked” and for good reason. When roasted properly at high heat quickly allowing convection between the heat source and beans as well as from bean to bean you will avoid “baking” your beans. The baking of coffee beans renders them flat and void of the brightness and zip they should have. Baking occurs when the beans are roasted too slowly or allowed to remain in a slowly decelerating heated situation. When this happens the coffee is losing the zip it has at peak of roast.

The manufactured home roasters that I have seen or heard of all have the same problem; they lack a good cooling system. It is virtually impossible to cool your roast quickly enough in the same chamber that they were, moments ago, roasting in. We in the industry uses sample roasters which are all outfitted with a separate cooling pan built to cool the roast as quickly as possible. We watch the roast checking it with a small scoop we insert into the roasting chamber about every 15 seconds when the roast is nearing the profile we desire. When the roast hits the desired profile we immediately dump it into a cool and operating cooling pan and generally stir it to speed the cooling along further.

James goes on to give some great simple ideas for constructing your own efficient home roast cooler.

My iRoast immediately shifts into a cooling mode as soon as it’s done roasting, turning the fan up on high and pumping room temperature air into the roasting chamber for about four minutes, but James is probably right — the residual heat in the chamber has a lot of thermal inertia, and a lot of that chill is being sunk into cooling the chamber instead of the beans.

I may have to give one or two of these cooling ideas a try. The only downside is that it’s going to take some careful handling with oven mitts to open the iRoast chamber before it’s done cooling — that puppy gets HOT.

Costa Rica SHB Tarrazu Dota

May 30, 2005

I’ve long been a fan of Columbian as my “staple” coffee. I like a lot of different coffees for variety, but to me, Columbian has always been the most “coffee” tasting coffee.

Roasted up in the Full City range or a little further, to me it has a fruitiness, and a sweetness that other coffees seldom achieve. When first brewed, there are notes of bitter chocolate and nuts, decending to a winey body as it cools.

This week, I acquired some Costa Rican SHB (“Strictly Hard Bean”) Tarrazu Dota green beans. This is a fairly high altitude (about 3300 feet) coffee from the Dota of Costa Rica’s Tarrazu region.

Coffees vary not only by region, but by year. I was really looking forward to these beans, as the cupping notes suggested that these beans managed to “out-Columbian Columbian” — to paraphrase the cupper, “If Juan Valdez tried this, he might have started promoting Costa Rica coffee”.

I have to admit, it didn’t disappoint.

Everything I like about a good, fresh-roasted Columbian is here in the cup, only moreso…

It’s magic — I’m glad I made the leap of faith and bought 20 pounds of this as green beans — I’m going to miss it lots when it’s gone…

PVR Sales Up 155%

May 28, 2005

ZDnet reports that PVRs are selling like hotcakes.

In May 2004, only 3.6 million households worldwide had access to a PVR service. This phenomenal increase in PVR households has benefited service providers such as TiVo and EchoStar.

According to the market researcher, hardware vendors had a windfall in 2004, with shipment volume jumping to 11.4 million units, up from 4.6 million pieces sold in the previous year. The phenomenal growth, a result of increasing awareness about time-shifting television programming, resulted in PVR revenue more than doubling to $4.3 billion from $2.1 billion in 2003.

For me, a TV without a PVR is kind of like a computer without an Internet connection — I know that there are people who still have them, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what they’re doing with them.

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