update 131202: I would disregard most of this post since I’ve picked up a chromecast which, at $35 has made queueing up Youtube, Netflix, or HBOgo videos to the TV stupid easy from the android tablet. I replaced the underpowered atom box with an Intel NUC for more serious gaming (minecraft mainly).
Ive got a small and very underpowered System76 meerkat hooked up to my LCD TV. The meerkat is the first “net top” they released in 2009 which you can think of as the desktop equivalent of a netbook (remember those?) and shipped with an Atom processor, one GB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive. It came in with Ubuntu 8.10, but has been upgraded many times over the last three years and currently runs Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. Although its integrated Intel video makes it feel slow, it boots up pretty quick. It won’t do full screen HD without choppiness so its definitely on the list to be replaced at some point, especially since pushing video to my TV is this things only job in life, but I can run video in a standard quality which looks pretty good on the big screen anyway. Mostly I use the thing to stream YouTube or TED Talk videos, but sometimes I’ll stream music from another machine on the network and run a slideshow, or the kids can play some silly online games on it. I never bothered to upgrade the hard drive in the thing which might make it more useful as a storage device, so with its little 80GB drive I end up storing nothing on it at all. Once in a while I might copy a bunch of MP4s or other ripped video to it, but not often. With my old Logitech S 510 cordless keyboard and mouse connected to it, theoretically I could lean back on the couch and control the action in comfort. What actually happens is that I end up putting the keyboard on the coffee table and hunching over it because I can’t see the text on the screen. I could probably solve this problem easily by just getting a pair of glasses but I hate wearing glasses unless I really have to.
Youtube promised to make it possible for me to control whats playing on the TV from a handheld or tablet device with their new YouTube TV service. The idea here is that most of you now have a handheld device and are hanging out on the couch with it while the TV is on, hitting up IMDB when you see an actor you recognize, or looking up some obscure factoid on Wikipedia inspired by the educational program you’re watching… well, thats what I’m doing. The media execs think I’m rushing off to Amazon to buy whatever crap they’re hawking in the commercials I don’t see since I use noscript and adblock. Whatever.
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In our never ending mission to educate our kids about all things geek, tonight we enjoyed a Star Trek marathon (of sorts). My eldest (a faithful Dr Who fan) has steadfastly refused to get sucked into the Star Trek universe – until tonight! My secret weapon was of course, Trouble with Tribbles which no budding geek can resist. Im sure no synopsis is required of this classic. That was followed up by the excellent Deep Space Nine episode Trials and Tribulations in which several of the DS9 cast (including Worf and O’Brien) find themselves transported back in time to the period of the original episode. Hilarity ensues. Then I dug out the animated series More Tribbles, more Troubles wherein the tribbles (now genetically engineered to not breed) instead grow amazingly large on whatever it is they find lying around the Enterprise. We were starting to worry that the kids weren’t Star Trek material, but these three seem to have clinched the deal. Now to find the tribble-related Enterprise episode and the scene in Generations!
Today’s APOD (Astronomy picture of the day) is of Vesta, a rocky asteroid named after the Roman goddess of home and hearth. Vesta is the second most massive asteroid in our solar system, but the first to be visited by the Dawn spacecraft which finally arrived there in July after launch in 2007 under power of its three xenon ion thrusters.
Yes, I said Ion Thrusters.
Star Trek fans will recognize this as “ion drive” and won’t confuse it with “ion propulsion” a more highly advanced technology not developed until sometime after 2268. NASA was clearly not aware of this semantic difference, but according to their otherwise very informative page, ion thrusters have demonstrated fuel efficiencies of over 90 percent compared to chemical engines which are around 30% efficient. Dawn is the first long range spacecraft to use this technology, (some satellites use it to maintain orbit). It will remain in orbit around the rocky world for most of a year and then will continue on to study the slightly larger dwarf planet, Ceres.
Another view of Vesta from about 3,200 miles distant.
One of my daughters friends has been getting into anime and manga of late, so I asked her to write down some of the titles shes been reading / watching so I could check into them. As often happens this has caused a bit of a problem because after a quick investigation it appears none of them are appropriate for my daughter’s age group. Anime on the list included:
- Vampire Knight – very dark, sexual themes
- Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji) – really cool, again sexual themes
- Death Note – especially dark, in fact I wonder at how you succeed selling a story with the premise of killing people by writing their names in a magic notebook in this day and age? At least in the US thats enough to get you expelled.
All of which are fantastic looking anime, but are very dark with lots of adult themes and sexual content. I hunted down some more off this list and found:
- Cardcaptor Sakura – had a good premise, but too cutsey for my kid
- InuYasha – almost a D&D scenario in ancient fantasy Japan where several parties of adventurers are battling demons. I liked it, she yawned. Comic relief characters suck (its what I hate about Disney too)
- Full Metal Alchemist – fantastic art, reminded me of the animated Batman series, but this one is TV-14!
Of course, shes not interested in anything I find since she wants to watch what her friend is into while now that I’ve seen Full Metal Alchemist I think I want to watch them myself, bringing me no closer to a decision about what to do.
Perhaps one of my favorite television shows when I was a bit younger, The Wonder Years was simply brilliant. It captured the essence of growing up in an American suburb in the late 60s to early ’70s and presented it in a beautiful and nostalgic way with off-screen narration provided by a grown up version of the 9 year old main character who was reflecting on that time in his life. I really enjoyed reading through this list of the 25 best moments from the series by B. I’ve filed this under Trek because of the Wonder Years’ infamous Trek parody episode. It’s a shame that you can’t buy a legal copy of this series on DVD because of copyright BS on some of the popular songs used in it, and long time readers of this blog know how much love I have for the record industry, and the sorry state of copyright law in the US.