As I’ve mentioned before in other posts, I’m not a really big gamer. I use my original xbox as a media center and use it to play NES, SNES, and other old console games. Ignoring my status as a non-gamer, I decided to get an Xbox 360 elite when it came out. Microsoft finally decided to include an HDMI port and I think that’s what really set me over the edge.
Man am I glad I got it. The graphics are absolutely amazing. Before getting one I really didn’t think of the next-gen consoles (Sony PS3, Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360) as a revolutionary change in the gaming industry like other consoles generations have been. I knew the technical specs sounded great on paper, but I didn’t think the graphics held up to my standards. After playing Lost Planet for a few hours, I can say the graphics / visuals are definitely revolutionary.
The day has come. Laura and Shiner have finally moved in! I went to Austin this past weekend to get Laura, her stuff, and our dog and move it all up to Dallas. I halfway expected it, but there was still some packing to be done. Laura put in a good effort getting a good amount of boxes packed up, but there was still some stuff left to be done. I flew down on Southwest Airlines via a one-way ticket from Dallas Love Field to Austin.
I’m really not a big fan of Southwest. I think it’s really just a multitude of small things that add up and make it a bad choice for me. For one, I hate the fact that your seats are not assigned. And I hate the whole boarding group thing: They give you these boarding groups that I think are defined by how early you check in. You have groups A, B, C which board the plane in alphabetical order. Even this is a multi-dimensional issue in itself. Within these groups there is really no structure, so whoever gets to the airport earliest, or waits in line the longest, or somehow gets ahead of you in line gets the best priority within each group. Even worse than that is the groups don’t really even seem to matter. Group A had a ton of people in it with Group B and C passes. So they were getting ahead of everyone when they shouldn’t. On top of that group B somehow had two lines entering the plane at once. It’s really just a big mess.So you finally enter the plane in your boarding group and realize everyone else who was actually in group B/C, but entered with group A, has taken all the aisle seats except for a few at the back. So you work your way all the way to the back of the plane because you have long legs and want the space for your knees and need room in the aisle for a little breathing room for the boys downstairs (read: your family jewels [read: your balls]). But as you get to the back of plane where there are now only two or three aisle seats open – where you passed plenty of middle seats 20 rows up – some douchebag from group C who decided to board ahead of you in group B takes the last aisle seat. With everyone behind you entering the plane and looking for a seat you are stuck where you are. You are in the farthest seat to the back of the plane. And it’s a middle seat.
God, I hate Southwest. But back to the real story at hand. I dealt with the crappy seat for all of about 45 minutes and landed in Austin. Laura picked me up with Shiner in the car and they were both really happy to see me. Laura gave me kisses and Shiner gave me… licks. I really don’t remember anything from that night so it was either uneventful or we went down-town and had such a good time that I don’t remember it. We got up early and packed up the Penske truck with all Laura’s belongings. I was surprised at how much we filled the truck up, but we also inherited a washer and dryer from the apartment complex. (Thanks!) Shiner and Maddie –my brother’s dog– got to play one last time and Laura and I started on our way to Dallas.
The trip was pretty uneventful. I got to cruise in the big ‘ol Penske and Laura and Shiner rode in her car. We stopped by Laura’s mom’s new place to drop off the couch Laura had and pick up her old dresser and night-stand. Laura’s mom had just moved the day before us, so luckily all the stuff was downstairs in the garage. Brian Kammerer and Laura’s mom met us over at the new place and we all moved everything in. It was a ton of help (thanks ya’ll!).
Brian’s now borrowing my xbox for the week as part of his “payment.” He is also getting a ridiculously sweet deal on a pull-out-bed couch and leather couch. That’s another story all together but the reader’s digest version is this: I asked Brian if he needed couches (now that we have like 5) and he said yes. Later I was joking with Laura that we would give him buy-one-get one free and give him a great price on the pull-out couch. She offered the combined offer of a great price and buy-one get one free and he said yes. He was a ton of help anyways and I’m happy to help a friend, so it all really works out in the end.
My brother wants the chair-and-ottoman that matches the pull-out couch and I really need to figure that out. I don’t want to store it for the next few months… so Jesse, we’ll be in contact.
As my good buddy Porky used to say,
“That’s all folks.”
I just went through another round of buying toys and I’m not sure I’m quite done yet. My most recent purchases include yet another large hard drive (500 gig), next-gen game console, speaker wire, and more.
The Xbox 360 Elite edition recently came out and I had been eyeing it for a while leading up to it’s release. It’s very similar to the Xbox 360 Premium edition, but it adds an HDMI port, black finish, and larger (120 gig) hard-drive. There are a number of reasons I decided to take the plunge and get one. I’m not really a true “gamer” by nature, but I am interested in console modding / hacking. My current Xbox 1 is the pinnacle of my home theater and entertainment system. It’s modified to run “homebrew” software, copied games, and emulate older consoles. It currently has a piece of software on it called Xbox Media Center (XBMC), which serves as a dashboard from which I can launch other applications, games, and widgets or play movies, music, and pictures. I really should post an article about this to describe in more detail what it does, but for now I’ll leave it at that.
That being said, the Xbox 360 really didn’t excel at any of the things that my Xbox 1 did once it was modified. However, the in-game graphics and technology inside the console are what really did me in. I said I’m not really a gamer, but if you know me you know I love technology and high-resolution video/graphics. I recently bought a 56” 1080p TV and now that the Xbox 360 includes an HDMI output, I thought it would match up well. On top of that, all my home-theater equipment is black so the console will match much better than the standard white version. The fact that they threw in a larger hard-drive was just an added bonus. I really have no need for it now – I already have around 2 TB (terabytes) of storage capacity on my network – but in the event that the Xbox 360 is modified to allow homebrew apps I’ll be happy the storage space is there.
Since I moved to my new apartment, the complete home-theater experience has been lacking in one area – completing my surround sound. I have a 1000 watt 7.1 setup powered by an Onkyo high-current amp, but I only have 2 speakers and the sub hooked up at the time. The way I laid out the apartment wasn’t really accommodating for the complete system, but I finally decided to buy the tools I needed to complete the job. Laura has been doing some decorating and I now have a great place to hide the two rear speakers out of the way. I bought some Acoustic Research PR362 flat, white speaker wire to run to the rear locations and a fishing tool to get the wire where I need it. I still don’t have a good location for the rear center speakers, but for the time being 5.1 will have to do. Attached is a diagram of what a 7.1 setup looks like.
I’m back from my week in San Francisco for training on a Microsoft tool called Project Server. To fill you in, my company is looking at tools for managing projects and the visibility of projects. We already have licenses for MS Project Server (link), have it set up on a development box, and have been looking at it as a possible solution. I was slated with heading up the initiative and my boss wanted me to go to a training to evaluate the tool as a possible solution.
A company called EPM Solutions (link) was offering a boot camp on Project Server and it seemed like it would be a good way to get an idea how project managers, end users, and administrators would have to interact with the server. This lined up pretty well with what we were trying to get out of a course, so I decided to go with it.
The hotel EPM suggested was about $129 / night, but it offered a shuttle to the airport and the Seaport Conference Center (class location). I figured if I had free transportation, my boss would think it was unnecessary to get a rental car. I didn’t want to be stuck at the hotel during the nights, so I decided to look for a cheaper hotel to make up for the difference. I found an Extended Stay America one exit further north that was about $50 / night cheaper – so I figured I could get that and a rental car and be set.
I ended up getting a good price on a fare at about $240 roundtrip. I left Sunday morning and arrived late morning. I picked up my rental car and set out to check out the city. Without having any real idea of where I was going, I knew San Francisco was north of me, so I took the highway 101 in that direction.
I saw a sign for Monster park, so I decided to stop off and see what that was all about. I drove through a somewhat ghetto part of the city and worked my way to the stadium. It’s sponsored by Monster – the company that does cables and power products. At the time, they were having some sort of rally racing. It was a bunch of rice cars (Civics, RSX, etc) and a few nicer cars (BMW M3, Corvette, etc.) running around the parking lot on some coned off course. Those guys have to be crazy. I wouldn’t want to be driving crazy on a concrete/gravel top road having rocks fly up and scratch the hell out of my paint. But oh, well – to each their own. The area just outside Monster park was really nice. There was a really pretty dock, the bay, a fence, and some mountains.
You can see those items in the photo gallery. I was getting bored, so I decided to head to the heart of San Francisco. I drove around the downtown area for about an hour looking for something to eat for lunch. The city was pretty packed and there was nowhere to park. I saw a film crew shooting something at some point, but I don’t know what it was. After driving around for while and not finding anywhere to park I finally caved in and decided to just get some fast food. I spotted a Burger King attached to a gas station and decided it would do. After looping around to get to it, I pulled into the parking lot only to find that it was take-out only. I wasn’t about to enjoy my first meal sitting in my car.
That being the case, I headed back to find my hotel. After getting all checked in at the Extended Stay, I was REALLY getting hungry and decided to stick with the fast food idea. I found a Wendy’s nearby and enjoyed a hearty triple-meat cheeseburger, a Caesar salad, French fries, and a coke. Mmmm. With my appetite appeased, I went back to the hotel to connect to the internet and research the tourist attractions. Did I mention I had to pay $5 just to get on the hotel’s wireless? What kind of sham is that? The front-desk person probably pocketed and got their own Wendy’s cheeseburger. ;) Oh well. I found some good info and decided to go hit up the cable cars and fisherman’s wharf.
I found a Wells Fargo (my bank) ATM and pulled out $20 for the cable car ride. The website said it was only $5, but twenty is a good number for a little cushion. After searching for some off-the-beaten-path-around-the-corner-and-down-the-hill parking I found a spot. I walked to the cable car platform, waited around for a few minutes, and got my first real taste of the city: the old cable cars. It turns out that $5 will only get you a one way ticket. But who the hell only wants to go one way. When you get there, how do you expect to get back? So I opted for the $11 all day pass, which turns out will come in handy later.
I rode down to the Embarcadero / Pier 1-2 area and decided to hoof it (read: walk) to Pier 39. I didn’t realize of freaking cold it was out there, so by about Pier 9 I decided I would hitch a ride on the old electric rail car. I got to the Pier and my first task was apparent: find a sweatshirt. Did I mention it was cold there? I found a University sport-wear place and walked in. They were watching the Golden State vs. Dallas game and I let them know how cool I thought Dallas was. Those California Golden State boys didn’t think it was funny… but I did. I found a cool brown sweatshirt with San Francisco written across the front of it in scripted print. It was only like $22 and I was cold, so it was well worth it.
I headed back out on my touring adventure and checked out Alcatraz (from the pier), then the Sea Lions, and finally had some dinner at a little surf place on the pier. I hopped on the old electric rail car on my way back home. We stopped a little down the road outside a CVS and I had to get off and switch to the next train. We waited for about 5 minutes when our driver came back and said we had to wait – that there was a fire truck and ambulance on the tracks ahead. Well, we waited. And we waited. And 40-45 minutes later the emergency vehicles cleared out of the way and we headed on our way back.
I hopped back on the first cable-car I was on and got some good pictures on the way back to where my car was. Again, you can see these pictures in the photo gallery. This day was probably the most eventful part of my trip… and I’m a little tired of writing. So maybe I’ll fill you in on my visit to Half Moon Bay, dinner with Uncle Scott and Cindy, and my other little side-trips while I was there later.