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Mud Sweat and Gears - great TV show

Many years ago, I encountered a wonderful show on TLC, "Junkyard Wars". Two teams were given a challenge to complete some task, and spent a couple days collecting stuff from a junkyard and creating something to rise up and win. I found the idea wonderful, and have seen most of the US shows and many of the original UK version of "Scrapheap Challenge".

Since then, I've enjoyed other short-lived shows where people worked to make something out of what they've got. "Monster Garage" was fun (and I will always remember the limo fire truck). Monster House had its moments, and every year I look forward to Punkin Chunkin.

The most recent addition to this group is on BBC America, Mud Sweat and Gears. Two auto journalists, Jonny Smith and Tom "Wookie" Ford, compete to create cars to compete in various categories, each aided by two car enthusiasts. They made Cop cars, Delivery vehicles, cars for the automotive equivalent of the Olympics games played every four years (This blog is not an official You Know What sponsor) and more.

They start with working cars, and make some modifications. They only have a day, so can't go too crazy with the modifications. Most shows, what I really enjoy is the design/building process. But the hosts are very competitive and the competitions are visually interesting so they're the main fun on this show. It's clear that the hosts don't know what the competitions will be, in the "Carmageddon" episode both made decisions that proved to be very poor choices as it turned out.

Is this life changing TV? No. It doesn't try to be. But I've found it a lot of fun!


Posted on March 18, 2015, 1:26 am
Last updated on March 21, 2015, 4:18 pm

Donald Brown

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How I deal with long programming sessions

Nuff said

Posted on March 9, 2015, 11:25 pm

Donald Brown

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Neat peripheral idea for new MacBook, go ahead and steal it

The main downside people are pointing to for the new MacBook is that there's only one port. That port can be used for power, video, audio, USB, but there's only one port.

Since USB C is an open standard, anyone should be able to make add-ons for it, and here's what I'd make if I was a hardware maker:

Powerbrick with integrated ports in the brick - a few USB ports, HDMI port, audio ports (I presume USB C supports audio), Ethernet, etc. Load it up. And a power cable off the brick. Brick stays on your desk with all the peripherals connected to it. Plugged in, your MacBook is a well-connected machine, external hard drives, printers, big monitor, external keyboard and mouse. Time to head out, disconnect one cable, and you're ready to work on the go with your ridiculously light laptop.

Yes, I know very little about hardware, not sure how hard it would be to make this, I'm assuming that supporting those ports is the open standard from what I've read but could be wrong. But if this seems like a neat idea, run with it with my blessings. (And if you wanted to send me one as thanks along with a Macbook to use it with, I wouldn't turn you down.)

Posted on March 9, 2015, 2:58 pm

Donald Brown

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I work with Twitter. I don't trust them, @twitterapi

As I might have mentioned once or twice before, I'm creating my own blog software that this is using. In it, I rely heavily on Twitter - it's the way I log into the admin area to add posts and other stuff, I use Twitter to announce new posts, and have adopted Twitter as my commenting system (if anyone ever found anything I write worth commenting on ;)) I do this because Twitter has some very cool ways to work with them, saved me a lot of work, most of the system is pretty elegant.

But I do that with zero trust.

Twitter broke faith with its developers once before, in a BIG way. When they launched, they had a wide open API and encouraged the API, among other things, to be used for other clients. And some really cool apps came out, showing not just Twitter but other sources in one easy convenient list. My program of choice on the Mac is one called Socialite, which can combine Twitter feeds (multiple if desired), Facebook feeds, and RSS feeds. I treat feeds like inboxes, something to go through all when I have a chance, rather than rivers, check to see the latest stuff from time to time. It was great. Not perfect, always some quirks, but improvements were made over time.

Then came May 2011 and Twitter arbitrarily said "NO MORE". No more third party clients. No more mixing of data from multiple sources (no matter how useful that is to the users and what interesting things that results in). No more space efficient displays of tweets, each tweet must be spaced the way it's done on the website. While they didn't kill the existing third party clients, they drastically limited the number of new accounts can be used on those clients, killing any hope of growth.

This SUCKED. And while Twitter has reached out to developers with improvements to its API and advocating people use it, it continues to suck and continues to limit the ways I can use Twitter. Because of this change, a Socialite 2 was shelved, Socialite 1.0 was mothballed so if something changes that breaks it (either OS API changes or Twitter API changes), it's gone - and gone with it my morning convenient list of "everything to go through". And that may make me just give up on Twitter, because the web clients and official iOS clients just don't do what I need. (And what that does to this blog, well, I've shelved projects for less.)

I get they needed to monitize. Fine. Require third party clients to display promoted tweets in all their glory. They want some consistency in display, fine, set requirements on what much be displayed in the list, what a details view looks like. But Twitter, your clients are NOT the ideal way for everybody to read your content and forcing everyone into it just makes unhappy users - and unhappy users sometimes go elsewhere. You're also not the only source, blocking combinging your data with others doesn't hurt the other data, just makes unhappy data.

And the thing is, Twitter could reverse that. Come up with new rules for third party clients (leave out the no combining with other sources). They could earn back developer trust and make their users happy.

But they won't. They'll still make arbitrary decisions in their benefit regardless of the impact on their development "partners" and their users. And that's why I don't trust Twitter. And while I find them useful, I don't really like them. I want that to change, but it's up to them.

Posted on March 9, 2015, 8:29 am

Donald Brown

The Dracula Tape (@audible) review

I am listening to an audio book that is a WONDERFUL adaption of a book I loved forever. If you're an Audible subscribe, you can get it here and it's well worth having.

In the 1980s, Fred Saberhagen started a series of Dracula stores, but with a different take. The first book, The Dracula Tape, is a retelling of the Bram Stoker classic - but from Dracula's standpoint. While he does not claim to be a hero (particularly by modern standards), he's not the monster the old story makes him out to be. This was long before Twilight, Being Human, so the idea of a non-monstrous vampire was shocking to me.

I've been hoping that it would be adapted into an audiobook, but filled with trepidation. Sometimes the books just don't hold up. More often, the narrators can't do service to it. There was an early audiobook series of Robert Asprin's Mythadventures series (which I'm thrilled to say was replaced with a very good version on Audible). And I just returned The Complete Enchanter for abysmal narration. The narrator for this book is Robin Bloodworth.

But this narration is great. It's told in first person by Dracula, and the narrator gives him just a hint of an accent as someone who has lived in London for a century might still have, rather than the extreme accent that Bela Lugosi made famous.

If you're not into audiobooks, it's also available as an eBook on Kindle or iBooks for $4.99.

It's the first of a series. I really liked the first three books of the series: The Holmes Dracula file (and can't wait for my next credit to get it) and An Old Friend of the Family are the others. After that, I thought the quality dropped off, but you may disagree.

Posted on March 7, 2015, 3:16 pm
Last updated on March 7, 2015, 9:01 pm

Donald Brown

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