Wednesday, December 07, 2005

About James

Living in New York, after being inTexas for eight years.

With wife and child.

Designing web sites.

I also engage in quite a bit of photography. My equipment consists of:

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Privacy Policy

I do not collect any user data outside that which is stored in Blogger's comment system, but I do use third-party advertising companies to serve ads when you visit this website. These third-party advertising companies may use information (not including your name, address, email address, or telephone number) about your visits to this and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services that might be of interest to you.

Google, as a third party vendor, uses cookies to serve ads on this site.

Google's use of the DART cookie enables it to serve ads to visitors of this site based on their visit to this site and other sites on the Internet.

Users may opt out of the use of the DART cookie by visiting the Google ad and content network privacy policy.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

MAC on a PC???

Oh, this was cool. Download Squad has a link to FlyakiteOSX who have assembled a bunch of hacks to that lets a PC clone the look and feel of a MAC. I tried it out for a few days and was very pleased, but in the end I had to return to Windows Classic theme. It just did not seem right. And I was getting a little confused with the keyboard shortcuts. My real MAC has a Windows keyboard where the Windows button acts as the Apple button. I love Download Squad.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Massachusetts, OpenDocument, and THE Microsoft

Massachusetts is proposing to implement a new file format for all government documents called OpenDocument. OpenDocument is an open source XML based standard document format for text, spreadsheet, chart, and graphical documents. It allows users to share files across different office suites seamlessly, no interpolation required.

From what I understand about OpenDocument, it is not as feature rich as Microsoft's proprietary file formats, but being an open standard the files can be traded back and forth between office suites. That is a mighty compelling feature itself. And for government work, it might not be such a bad thing to limit the amount of 'features' a document has in it. Lastly, since it is an open source standard, it is certainly possible to add more functionality later.

So is this bad for Microsoft? Possibly, but probably not, or at least not so much. First, because OpenDocument is a open standard, old MS could simply add it into their office suite. And I bet that they eventually will. If not, then there is a business opportunity here for a software company to create a plug-in for MS Office that can read and write to the OpenDocument format.

But, really, what this is about is the world being freed from the tyranny of Microsoft's proprietary file formats. That will allow us to freely choose whatever office suite we want. So how is that not bad for MS? Well, I think it is likely that people will still choose MS Office, not only because it is what they know, but also because it is just so feature rich. And the masses seem to like it. And when the customer has the chance to choose the product, they then have a stake in it and become defacto advocates for it. As an example, a few years ago I became so fed up with MS's blatant unfair practices around Internet Explorer, that I did everything I could to avoid using it. Well, after a few months I came to the conclusion that IE was in fact the best browser of the day and acknowledged that it would have become number one regardless of the games MS was playing. I was very adamant about it. Of course that changed when Firefox matured. I switched to Firefox because Mozilla had finally put out not an equal browser, but a superior one.And MS always has Outlook, the ultimate bloatware that is massively habit forming. Thunderbird (which can be integrated with OpenOffice) is light years from Outlook, it is like a better version of Outlook Express.

That is not to say that I will be using MS Office, I have already switched to OpenOffice. But I am usually in the minority, I expect that I will be in the minority on this topic as well. For me, MS Office is just too frustrating to use. I have to work to get past all the crap that they throw at the user, like the 'help' window. Just like with the new design of XP, MS Office 2003 has more stuff that does not help me use my computer, it just adds stuff that gets in my way. I am very thankful that MS incorporated the ability to change the overall GUI to that of Win2K. That is my greatest worry with Vista, that MS may abandon the 'classic' theme and have some even more hideous GUI. If that is the case, it could well send me to MAC or Linux. Though, I would not look forward to that and I have to be hopeful that Vista will be at least as good as Win2K.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Rhino 3D

I just installed Rhino again on my fresh install of WinXP. I had forgotten how much I love that program. For those that do not know, it is a CAD program that uses NURBS to create complex surfaces. Simply put, it makes curvy stuff. It is very easy to learn and use, but it is not parametric, so one does need to know how to build a model in parts that can be modified later without having to rebuild the whole model. I usually do this with a combination of carefully saving all the construction input (curves) used to build any given surface and saving incremental versions of the whole file.

I had not used Rhino in more then a year (as I am now doing primarily web design instead of product design), but I was surprised how much of it I remembered. I just fell right back into it. I guess the thousands of hours spent working on it over the years had some permanent effect on my brain.

It is cheap too, it is $900 bucks now. But back when I started using it, it was $800 compared to $14K for PTC’s ProDesigner which is what I was using. ProDesigner was not only stupidly expensive, but slow, buggy, hard to use (like way hard to use) and quite limited. Over time, I completely replaced ProDesigner with Rhino for my design work which involved integrating with ProEngineer (PTC’s main app). Yes, not only did Rhino play nice with ProE (ProEngineer), over time, I found it easier to integrate then ProDesigner.

I pulled it out because I will be building a few pieces of furniture and will be modeling the design in Rhino. Yes, I do remember how to make furniture, astounding is it not? It is nice to be using one of my favorite programs of all time, three thumbs up (way up) to Rhino. Though, to be fair, Alias kicks ass, but was always just to expensive and did not have enough export options.

As for the furniture, I have a couple of new tools to help in the endevour. I won’t mention what they are until I have had time to fully test them out as a number of snooty woodworkers that I know will no doubt be looking down their noses at my new machines.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Texas Furniture Makers Show

The Texas Furniture Makers Show will be held at the Kerr Arts & Culture Center in Kerrville Texas. The show opens on October 28th and runs through December 5, 2005.

This is the sixth year of the show which has consistently been filled with a an excellent and eclectic range of finely crafted work.

I had the pleasure of judging the show in its second and third years. It has come a long way since then and now the show is judged by an ever changing three person committee of highly qualified individuals.

Jim Derby, the president of KACC (Kerr Arts & Culture Center), has done a tremendous job of building the show. Ken Malson has also been instrumental in the development of the show.

The event just keeps getting bigger and better. Last year I was fortunate enough to inaugurate a continuing education event for woodworkers focusing on design. This year in addition to the design class that I taught, KACC is also offering a great class on wood finishing, which is one of the more overlooked, yet very important parts of woodworking.

This year, Karl Muench will be teaching the design class and Curtis Whittington will be teaching the finishing class. If I can manage to get there, I will be sitting in on the design class and putting my two cents in. But I am very torn as the finishing class is held at the same time.

I highly recommend all Texas woodworkers to submit their work for the show (it is too late this year, but start thinking ahead for next year).

For anyone interested in design, this is a great show to see. If you are anywhere near Kerrville, you really should go see this show. Kerrville is quite a nice little town in the Hill Country so stay and have a look around. You will be surprised by the number of galleries the town has, I know I was.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Robert William Fryer

At 2:30 PM Central time, Dr. Jennifer Fryer gave birth to Robert William Fryer. Robert weighed in at seven pounds and two ounces and was pronounced to be in good health. Both mother and son are doing well.

The eight hour labor went better then expected and much better than the pregnancy had gone up to that point.

Best Regards,
Robert (W),
and James Fryer

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Colour of Magic : Lord of The Rings meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Great idea, first book in a wonderful series

Not well crafted
The Bottom Line:
If you like Douglas Adams, you will like Terry Prachett, not necessarily this book, but definitely his later work.

Ok, maybe not the most original or clever way to start out a review, but I think it is the fastest way to get the most people to understand the basic concept of the book. The book is one part typical fantasy world and one part comedic satire, smashed together to make an original read.

The Color of Magic is about a “Wizard” (Rincewind) who cannot cast a spells, and the archetypal bumbling “Tourist” (Twoflower). Rincewind is constantly trying to get out of his own way in an effort to flee from trouble, which only leads to something worse. Twoflower is a good-natured optimist who does not have a clue, but has luck, lots and lots of luck. That and very loyal travel chest.

Be aware that this is the first book in a long, long series. Though series might be the wrong word. Most of the books can actually stand alone, but together they create quite a world. However, this book is not a masterpiece in itself. It lacks polish and seems to be in a rush to get through with itself. Youthful exuberance got in the way of craft.

The two things that got me through this book are, 1) the idea of a fantasy farce is brilliant, 2) I had already read “Good Omens” which is truly a gem, so I knew Pratchett had talent.

And I have kept on with the series. The first several books are packed with great ideas but still suffer from a lack of craft and subtlety. Pratchett eventual works out his issues and has been writing great books ever since.

Back to my opening, this is very similar in spirit to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If you like that, my bet is that you will like Terry Pratchett, maybe not the first few books, but certainly the last twenty or so. Both Douglas Adams and Terry Prachett take genres that are often too serious and stuffy and busted them wide open with satire.

Monday, July 18, 2005

HEY! Throw those spyware filled computers my way will ya!?


OK, I think I am better now. But wow, people are dumb, I Mean People Are Dumb, NO REALLY, PEOPLE ARE DUMB!!!!

OK, really, I will be fine.

But boy, how dumb can people be?

So here is what is happening, people (supposedly smart people with PhDs and Yale professors) are throwing out their computers because there is too much spyware on them. I know what you are thinking (Holy Crap, am I right?).

Don’t believe me? Have a look at the NY Times.

See, I was telling it straight. Now that I have had a bit of time to think on it, it strikes me as funny. Hey, you can either laugh or cry when you see the world falling apart. I prefer to laugh, because frankly, crying is a bit too damp for my taste.

One of my favorite lines was by a Microsoft exec, “We saw that a significant percentage of crashes and other problems were being caused by this.” Ya, thats it. It has nothing to do with your crappy software, it is all the spyware’s fault. It is a great scape goat, is it not? I am a little afraid that Microsoft will start making spyware so they can create an even larger smoke screen for the real problem, them. I am only a little scared, because I doubt their spyware would actually work.

OK, enough MS bashing, sorry, but you guys really asked for it that time. Really, I don’t hate MS, they make it just so easy. I actually like the Xbox (except that it is really ugly and loud). To be honest, I have more computers running windows than running OSX.

So back to the article. People, send your computers to me. I know how to fix this stuff, pretty simple really. Do a web search and most times you can get detailed info on how to fix each problem. It certainly does not take 15 hours to learn how to do this as one guy said. What was funny about that guy was that after fixing his box, he wipes his drive, nice. If all else fails, wipe and reinstall windows. It is not that difficult. And once you have a clean install, try putting some decent (and free) anti spyware on your box:
Spybot Search and Destroy
Though, to be fair, some of the people in the article had four year old machines, so replacing them was not unreasonable.

But, overall, the article does prove my point: dumb people are stupid.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

COX - overpriced and unreliable

I have lived with COX in the Bryan/College Station, Texas area (internet and cable tv) for three years, the last two have been truly dreadful. My main complaint is that they continually change their services without notice in an effort to get the customer to pay more. For instance, they have changed their internet services four times since I have been with them. First I had 1mb for $30 a month, then they canceled that and I had to switch to 128 kb for the $25, then they canceled that and I had to go back to dial-up. Then they reintroduced 1mb for $30, but recently canceled that again and now I am at 4mb for $40. OK, so at least I am getting more for my money, but I don’t need 4mb, I would rather have 1mb and pay $30. There is no technical reason why they can not sell me 1mb for $30, or like the local DSL 1.5mb for $25. They just like my money and look for every angle to get more of it. Hey, I know that is business, it is just that they are so sleazy about it and I have to constantly watch my services and charges.

They are just very sleazy in the way they go about changing their services, not to give the customer better choices, but to squeeze more money out of them. I am in an area where DSL is unavailable, otherwise I would have dumped Cox and gone with DSL and DirectTV.

Cox’s Cable TV service is no better. Over the past month my channel line up has changed three times. With the last change they took away CNN, so I am left with only local channels, but I have Spanish channels. I need those like I need another whole in my head. But, I have to pay for it to get the internet access, so really, I am paying $60 for 4mb, not so much of a bargain.

Their customer service is dreadful, hold times are regularly over ten minutes and that is when I can get through, often the line is busy. Then I get bounced around from one department to another because I have multi part questions, which never seem to get answered.

Their advertising is very misleading, they are currently offering Digital Cable with a DVR for $25. Sounds great, except it is bogus, you first have to order, not one, but two tiers of digital channels to get this deal (the $25 is on top of the charge for the two tiers of digital channels) and the $25 is for the first two months only, what a joke.

And to add insult to injury, Cox’s service is unreliable. Their internet drops anywhere from one to five times a week. Usually, after restarting the modem, it comes back in just a few minutes. It typically does this at very inopportune times, like when I am sending a large email attachment or playing an online game. Ironically, their advertisements focus on how their service will not go down in a storm, like satellite, but it does. Curiously, the internet service goes down much more frequently then dose the cable tv.

I am moving next year and will be glad to be rid of Cox once and for all.