This is what Shawn Morton would look like if he had been made of LEGO sMoRTy71.com -- the personal website of Shawn Morton
Sunday, February 27, 2005
XBOX power cord arrived
My XBOX replacement cord came
I wasn't really worried about the power cord recall on the XBOX until I saw the replacement cord.

It is huge compared to the old cord and it looks like it has some sort of GFI protection built in. Plus there are warning stickers on all sides of the cord.

They even included a sticker to place on the XBOX that warns not to use other power cords.

I'm not sure that I feel better with this new cord or not.
More XBOX 360 rumors
Engadget is reporting that the XBOX 360 will indeed have wireless controllers (a rumor first reported by The Inquirer, I think) and an optional top-mounting hard drive.

Of course, this leads everyone to speculate that there will be two models: one with a hard drive (and maybe PVR functionality) and one without (that will be cheaper). Many of the comments on the Engadget story say that MS is making a mistake by not including a hard drive on all models.

I think that the hard drive is an unnecessary expense considering that the current XBOX hard drive is nothing more than a really big memory card. The XBOX 360 will supposedly use a 1GB flash drive, so game saves should be covered. If I can get an XBOX without a hard drive that is relatively inexpensive, then I'm OK without the hard drive.

The bigger question that I want answered (and maybe it has been) is about backwards compatibility. See, if they make the XBOX 360 play XBOX games, then I think a lot of people with go ahead and hack their XBOX (I know I will). The only reason I haven't done it yet is because I don't want to lose the ability to play games if I screw it up.

If the XBOX 360 will play your old games, then there really isn't any reason not to hack the XBOX once the 360 is released.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Got a kickass Woot! today

I was able to get my hands on today's Woot! before it sold out. It is a Rockford Fosgate digital music bundle that allows you to stream digital music from your computer or Rhapsody to your home stereo via 802.11b. It also includes 20GB car-based MP3 server with removable hard drive and 802.11b capabilities. So you can sync up your MP3 collection with your car system via wireless. How cool is that?

The retail price for all of the components is between $600 and $700; however, many retailers are sold out of the receivers. Woot! had the whole thing for $199 plus $5 shipping, so I couldn't pass it up.

Because I already have multiple HTPCs in the house, I have no need for the digital music receiver and wifi card. I plan on selling those items on eBay. I checked the closed auctions for the same receiver and those units have been selling for $150. If I can get $150 for the receiver and $25 for the wifi card (which retail for $350), the car system will end up costing me around $30. I love Woot!
Today is Amy's birthday
Today is Amy's birthday. I don't want to say how old she is because she gets upset when I mention it to her in person. I can only imagine how mad she'd get if I told all 6 of my readers about it.

She should take comfort in the fact that I will always be 5 years older than her (although I still have the youthful look of a 20 year old).
Nooo! Moss traded to Raiders!
Looks like Randy Moss is going to be traded to the Raiders. This is really bad news for the Morton household. First of all, I've followed Randy since he attended my alma mater, Marshall University. The only reason we are Vikings fans is because they drafted Moss back in 1998. And to top it all off, we've got a sh!tload of Vikings jerseys, shirts and dresses (for Mira, not me).

So now, I must reject the Vikings organization and embrace the... Raiders (sorry, I throw up in my mouth a little there). The only thing worse would have been the Cowboys!

On the plus side, those silver and black jerseys are much cooler looking than the purple and gold Vikings' one.

BTW, thanks to Eric Brinley for forwarding this bad news to me.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Google's new movie searches
Google has added yet another useful feature to their search functionality. This time, it has to do with movies. Now, from the Google search box, you can use "movie:" to do movie-specific searches.

For example, if you want movie listings for your zip code, enter "movie:40241." This gives you a complete list of theaters, showtimes, map link, movie ratings and IMDB links for your area.

Or do searches to find movies whose titles you can't remember. For example, "movie:jim carrey erases memory."

Clicking on a movie title takes you to a page that aggregates reviews and other information about the movie. It evens provides an average rating based on all of the results returned. For example, for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," there are 69 reviews with an average score of 4.2 out of 5. Cool!
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Free Pee-Wee!
Free Pee-Wee! The final part of my birthday present from Amy arrived today. It is this lovely "Free Pee-Wee" t-shirt.

I lived in Sarasota, FL for about a year when Pee-Wee's Playhouse was in its first season. Pee-Wee's (er, Paul's) parents lived there, too. Because I was a goofy teenager, I would call the Reubenfeld household on a regular basis in hopes that Pee-Wee would answer. He never did.
My new XBOX cord is on its way
In just 2-3 short weeks, my XBOX will no longer be able to burn my house down. That's not too comforting, but I guess it will have to do. I just got the following e-mail from Microsoft:

"Your order for a Xbox Replacement Cord has shipped.
Please allow 2 - 3 weeks for delivery. While you are waiting for the new cord to arrive, turn off your console whenever it is unattended. Please install the new cord when you receive it.
"

If you have an older XBOX, you can order a free replacement cord here.
Will an SDK save TiVo?
A few weeks ago, TiVo released an SDK that allows developers to build custom apps for a standalone TiVo using the Home Media Engine.

Considering how stagnate TiVo itself has been over the past year in terms of innovation, the SDK is really starting to produce some cool stuff.

The most recent app imports your Flickr account into TiVo. Another lets you access eBay. While much of this stuff is already doable with an HTPC, to be able to do it using TiVo's solid UI and fantastic remote is definitely a key difference.

Some readers over at the PVRblog are claiming that this type of stuff may be enough to save TiVo. I hope so; however, they need to get these updates to the 60+% of their users who have DirecTiVo and have (so far) not been able to get any of the new features like Home Media Engine and TiVo to Go.

For now, I am just going to bug the developers over at Meedio to create a Flickr plugin that does the same thing.
Monday, February 21, 2005
sMoRTy71, Junior Electrician
The fridge is fixed
Friday, we started having a problem with our refrigerator. When I would open the door, the light would seem to flicker on and off. At first, I thought the lightbulb was bad; however, after a few minutes, I realized that the whole thing was losing power.

I checked the breaker box and couldn't see anything obvious. So I did the only thing a super handyman like myself could do -- I plugged it into an extension cord, plugged it in across the kitchen and left it alone for two days.

So today, I decided to figure out what was going on. I thought it was the outlet that was bad; however, after pulling the whole thing apart, I determined it wasn't the outlet. Figuring that I had exhausted all of my electrical skill, I decided to call in a professional. Fortunately, the professional is my dad, so it didn't cost me anything.

With a cellphone in one hand (my dad lives in WV) and a voltage tester in the other, my dad was able to step me through the process of troubleshooting the electrical problem. After a little bit of trial and error (taking apart two outlets, disassembling the breaker box, checking each breaker for power), we were able to determine that I had a bad breaker.

I made a quick Home Depot run and got everything I needed to replace the breaker and replace a GFI outlet that I suspected was fried. After getting the parts, the whole project took about 30 minutes to complete. Of course, it took quite a bit longer to reset all of the clocks in the house.
DIY WiFi Antenna

I saw this article on HackADay yesterday and decided to give it a try. It is a really simple WiFi antenna that can be made out of some scrap cardboard and aluminun foil.

I have a 802.11g wireless router in my office in the basement. The one wireless client in the house is upstairs, so the signal strength isn't the greatest.

After printing out the template, cutting out some cardboard and gluing on some foil, I was able to take my wireless signal from "good" to "very good." I am going to tweak the positioning of the antenna and place another one on the antenna of the wireless NIC card to see if I can push the signal strength higher.

The antenna isn't the best-looking thing in the world; however, my router is in the basement where no one, except me, will ever see it.

Here are some photos of each step:
Step 1 | Step 2 | Step 3 | Step 4 (shown above)
Sunday, February 20, 2005
HTPC #3 is finished (for now)

I finished setting up and installing HTPC #3 this weekend.

As you can see from the photo above, I was able to conceal the entire HTPC box by placing in the bottom dresser drawer. I ended up going that route because placing the box next to the dresser looked bad and sounded even worse. The drawer completely dampens the fan noise. The only problem is that I can't leave the box on except when we are using it due to the heat buildup.

My next little project is to install a 12V case fan to the back of the dresser (like I did in my home theater equipment rack) to pull the hot air out from the HTPC. I will get another variable voltage power supply so that I can adjust the speed of the fan to eliminate any noise issues.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Google Maps is really cool
Although they posted it last week, I just read the Google Blog's entry about Google Maps. As with other copycat services that Google has tackled, they are able to improve upon the original.

The coolest part is that the maps zoom and scroll without having to reload the page. Also, the map graphics are super easy to read.

Here is what I got when I searched my address in Google Maps.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
New HTPC up and running
After swapping some old components around, I was able to get my new HTPC up and running tonight.

I pulled an ancient ATI All-in-Wonder video card from a Windows 2000 Advanced Server box that I have running as a print and DNS caching server. I didn't want to shell out $40 or $50 for a new PCI video card with an S-video out. The AIW only has 4MB of video memory; however, it looks fine on my 20" TV (and the price was right).

I still need to pick up a Y-adapter to split the audio signal and some sort of input device. I'd like to use a remote of some sort; however, a wireless mouse would work okay, too.

Now that I have 3 HTPCs on the network, I am going to test out my network capacity. I want to see if I can watch 3 different movies simultaneously. Of course, I'll post the results of this nerdy endeavor.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Macrovision's silly RipGuard DVD
News.com is reporting that Macrovision, the maker of copy-protection technology, is claiming that they have developed new technology (called "RipGuard DVD") that will prevent much of the DVD copying going on today.

What's so funny about their approach is that Macrovision is just trying to thwart DVD copying software instead of creating a new encryption system. And the article admits that the new technology doesn't work on all apps.

Can Hollywood really be naive enough to buy into this "system?" After all, if your current DVD ripping app is affected by RipGuard DVD, you can simply download one that isn't. Inconvenience disguised as copy protection. Brilliant!
Monday, February 14, 2005
Got a great Valentine's Day gift
Got a great Valentine's Day gift
Amy surprised me with a sealed VHS copy of Mr. T's "Be Somebody or Be Somebody's Fool" from 1984.

According to the back of the box, "Here's a brand new video for children and teenagers that's a rompin', stompin', poppin' and breakin' hour full of fun and entertainment and some very good advice...'T-style.'" I'll be sure to share any wisdom I gain in later posts.
The state of beta
ZDNet published an article on the current state of the term "beta" in web-based products and services. It features criticism from one woman who apparently got burned by a bad beta experience while also getting opinions from Flickr's Christina Fake about why they continue to use the label.

Maybe it's just me, but I actually kind of like the fact that products like Gmail and Flickr are in beta. That implies that there will be more features coming out.

We recently launched some new features on a project that I'm involved with at work. We used the beta label on those features because we will be rolling out a series of improvements over a relatively short period of time. We felt that the beta label lets users know that the features are still evolving. They also tend to be less likely to complain too loudly when they encounter issues.

Maybe people would've been less harsh on the gaping holes in IE6 if MS had placed a beta label on it. I wonder if it is too late to add it?
Sunday, February 13, 2005
I think my XBOX DVD drive is dying
I bought the boys Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart today at Target for the bargain price of $9.99. When I got home and fired the game up, we got 3 different "Disc is either damaged or dirty" errors at different points in the game (not exactly the thing to get the kids excited about their new game). Normally, I would blame the game; however, over the past few weeks, I have gotten a few dirty disc errors.

After doing a little research online, I found that failed DVD drives isn't that uncommon. An increasing number of disc errors or really long load times are two symptoms of a failing drive. Considering that I've had my XBOX since November of 2001, I guess I've gotten a fair amount of use out of it.

It looks like I can pick up a "plug and play" replacement drive for around $30 on ebay. I'll post details of the replacement process once I get around to fixing it.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
Started building a new HTPC
Well, I acquired an old 1 GHZ small form factor Compaq box today that I am going to transform into another HTPC. It's got 512MB of RAM and a 20GB HDD. I have added a DVD-ROM drive, installed Windows XP SP2, Meedio and several DVD decoders.

I am hoping to use it as an "extender" box in my master bedroom so that I can watch DVDs or pull ripped DVDs, photos and MP3s from the other 2 HTPCs.

I still need to pick up a really cheap video card with an s-video out (I'll be connecting this to a 20" flat Samsung TV so I don't need anything too fancy), a set of decent 2.1 speakers and some kind of remote. I'd love to get another Firefly remote; however, I'm not going to shell out $50. Plus, the Firefly is RF, so I don't know if it would interfere with the Firefly I use in the "sanctuary."
Wednesday, February 9, 2005
Interview with Stewart Butterfield
One more Flickr item today. O'Reilly has a really interesting interview with Flickr CEO Stewart Butterfield. He covers everything from the Flickr business model to the tagging phenomenon to their open API. I recommend the interview to anyone interested in social networking or building usable web applications.
UI changes at Flickr
I noticed yesterday that Flickr has made some changes to their user interface. The photo page has been totally redesigned so that it is easier to understand where you are in your photostream and so that it is easier to move from picture to picture (and maintain your understanding of where you are in your photostream).

It took me a little bit to get used to it; however, I really like the improvements.
Tuesday, February 8, 2005
Mira walked!
Although she had been taking single steps for a few days, Mira finally was able to string two and three steps together tonight. It seems like she has made the transition from crawling to cruising to walking very quickly. I guess it is time to get baby gates for the "sanctuary."
Monday, February 7, 2005
:{) VM! taking up lots of time
Wow, it's only been a week since I launched :{) Viva Mustachio!, the premier internet destination for mustache enthusiasts. It is really taking more time than expected to keep the site updated. I've been able to get a nice stream of user-submitted photos; however, cropping the photos, uploading the photos to Flickr, writing the oh-so-clever description and posting the link on del.icio.us ends up taking quite a bit of time.

I'm thinking about opening up the site to some outside contributors; however, it will take a special individual. Someone who truly understands what constitutes a great-looking mustache. I'm sure that person is out there. I just have to find them.

Of course, all of this attention on :{) VM! means that Haterism.com, the premier internet destination for playa hatin' and appreciatin' has yet to get off the ground. Sigh...
Sunday, February 6, 2005
No "deli in my belly" please
Wow! What is going on with McDonald's marketing? First, there's the whole "I'd hit it" banner ad brouhaha (which is hilarious). Then, there's the dopey guy who never knows what to get for his disproportionately hot girlfriend. Then, the one where the culturally diverse group of urban youth discuss the merits of duvet covers (when "throw pillow" is your pushline, you know your commercial sucks!) And finally, there's the def poetry jam, green-is-the-new-black one (which sounds like it features Ursula Rucker from the Roots'"Return to Innocence Lost"). All of them, really, really bad.

However, the one that pushes the marketing bus over the cliff is the one for the new Deli sandwiches. That soft-spoken adult contemporary song that includes the line "I need some deli in my belly cause that's how I feel" just grosses me out. First of all, who talks like that? And secondly, who would pair that line up with that ultra-sappy, I-make-Josh-Groban-sound-masculine voice?

After seeing "Super Size Me," the last thing I want to think about is that McDonald's food actually ever enters my body. I prefer to live in denial.
Thursday, February 3, 2005
Don't knit and drive!
OK, this is one of the weirdest things that I've seen lately while driving.

After I left my office this evening, I got behind a gold Ford Taurus stationwagon. I noticed the car initially because it seemed to be weaving quite a bit within its lane.

At the next stoplight, I noticed that the driver, a woman in her 60s, was looking down for long periods of time, then glancing up to check out what was going on out there on the road. She did this at the light and when she was barreling down the road at 60mph.

After first, I thought she was reading; however, as I watched closer, she seemed to be doing something with her arms (while she was driving, of course). I continued behind her for several miles. Finally, at the next stoplight, I noticed a big quilt draped over the middle of the seat. She was knitting!!! After a couple of minutes at this really long stoplight, I finally saw the knitting needles. I couldn't believe it.

To make matters worse, I ended up following her all the way until she turned into the subdivision next to ours. So chances are, I will be running into (hopefully not literally) her and her knitting again.
Tuesday, February 1, 2005
Viva Mustachio!
The site is live. I've featured the site's first mustache and it's a good one. Go check it out now.

About Shawn Morton

Married father of 6; VP of Social Media at JPMorgan Chase; gluten-free; gadget enthusiast; hair metal aficionado; #Movember man View more on LinkedIn.