This is what Shawn Morton would look like if he had been made of LEGO sMoRTy71.com -- the personal website of Shawn Morton
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Worst covers of all-time
Today's "Featured Mix" on Rhapsody is "Worst covers of all-time." There are some really great, bad covers including Pat Boone doing "Enter Sandman" by Metallica and Celtic Frost doing "Mexican Radio" by Wall of Voodoo.

Of course, there is also the requisite "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by William Shatner. Funny stuff. If you use Rhapsody, check out the playlist.
Problem solved, new problem found
I reported last week that my couch speakers didn't work with my XBOX. Well, it turns out that they work great. I just didn't have the volume set correctly. Why, you ask?

Well, both receivers are from Onkyo, so they share the same remote code. That means that when I tweak the volume on the main receiver, it messes with the volume on the new receiver. So when I was testing them out with the XBOX, I had obviously turned them down inadvertently. Duh!

Guess it's time to break out the good ol' electrical tape and cover the IR sensor on the new receiver.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
We've got a basement
We have a basement! 1
I drove by the lot today to see if they had started on the house. To my surprise, they had already poured the basement and the garage floor. Even though it is still a few months from being finished, it was nice to see some progress.

I also got a first glimpse at our next door neighbors and our neighbors directly behind us. Neither of them looked crazy, so that's good, too.
I'd buy more CDs if they were cheaper
I did something that I haven't done for over a year - I bought a CD. Two actually. I've been using Rhapsody for the past 3 years, so I don't buy a CD unless Rhapsody doesn't have it or unless the CD is just really, really good. I think the last one I bought was "Tyrannosaurus Hives." And before that, it was "Elephant" by The White Stripes.

Well, today, I picked up Weezer's "Make Believe" and Hot Hot Heat's "Elevator" at Circuit City. They were having an "All CDs under $9.99" sale.

This 2 CD shopping spree made me realize that the reason I don't buy CDs isn't because of Rhapsody. After all, I wouldn't have heard the Hot Hot Heat album without it. It's the fact that CDs are too expensive. If all CDs were always $9.99 or less, I would definitely buy more of them.

In fact, I'm planning on picking up The White Stripes' "Get Behind Me Satan" on June 7th. I just a read a glowing NY Times piece on it and I absolutely love the "Blue Orchid" single. If you use Rhapsody, check it out.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Added a couple more clips to Vimeo
I've uploaded a couple more clips to Vimeo on Friday. One is from a game of basketball we had at the office on Friday. The other is me terrorizing a co-worker with a Nerf gun. I have a feeling I'll need to take that one down once she sees it :)

If anyone would like an invite to Vimeo, shoot me an e-mail.
Getting some action on the house
Well, it looks like interest in the house is definitely picking up. We had 2 showings yesterday, 2 showings today and we've got 3 scheduled for tomorrow. I'm not really looking forward to being out of the house all day (while the showings are going on); however, if it sells, it will be worth it, I guess.

The open house is going to be next Sunday. If you want to buy our house, please stop by then... with cash.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Uploaded some clips to Vimeo
I finally got around to uploading a couple of clips to Vimeo. One is from a game of basketball we had at the office today. The other is of Mira naming the members of KISS.

I'm hoping to shoot a couple more tomorrow. You can grab to my Vimeo RSS feed to keep up with my latest clips.
The dumbest iPod accessory?
Check out the iGuy on Engadget. I think it easily wins the title of dumbest iPod accessory.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Amazon image hacks
This article (from a Peanuts fan site?) explains all of the attributes and options that Amazon uses to format it's images. This includes things like adding the % off bullets next to the book covers, changing the % off value and changing the image orientation. Not sure what you can really do with this; however, it is kind of cool to see how it is done.

One of the Amazon image hacks that I use a lot is the one at slothradio.com. I use their search to pull down cover art for the DVDs or CDs I am ripping to my HTPC.
Hack #67: Set Speakers to "Small"
I've been reading through (and applying some of) the hacks in O'Reilly's "Home Theater Hacks" book. Hack #67 is "Set You Speakers to "Small" in Your Receiver Setup" (page 243 for those reading along at home).

This hack explains how most home theater speakers should be set to "Small" in your AV receiver's options. Apparently, the "small" or "large" distinction isn't really about the physical size of the speaker. It is really an indicator of your speakers' dynamic range and determines "when low frequencies are diverted from your front speakers and into your subwoofer."

My speakers were set to "large," so I made the change. It does seem like my subwoofer is a bit more active than it was (but that could just be the bass shakers talking).

According to the author of the hack, there are very few home theater speakers that should be set to "large." So check your AV receiver's settings. You may be missing out.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
My couch hack is finished!
New receiver arrivesI got my Onkyo TX-8211 today and I hooked it up to the bass shakers that I installed in the couch over the weekend. I'm listening to The Roots "Things Fall Apart" CD right now and the sensation of the bass shakers is awesome. It's better than awesome.

This is definitely the best add-on I've done to my home theater in years.

If you've got an old receiver, you can't go wrong picking up a $30 pair of bass shakers and building them into your system.

I have the capacity in the new receiver to add to more shakers (since I wired them serially). I might eventually add a couple more in the back of the couch so that they hit your lower back.

UPDATE: I tried them out with the final battle scene in "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" using the discrete 6.1 soundtrack and the effect was even better than with a CD. I could feel every footstep of the approaching army and every impact of the battering ram. Amazing!
Monday, May 23, 2005
Got a Vimeo beta account
I just got an invite to Vimeo from Jakob Lodwick (one of the guys behind Vimeo, College Humor and Busted Tees). I had bugged him for one a couple of weeks ago and he was kind enough to hook me up.

Even though I've only spent about 15 minutes using my new account, I can tell I am going to be hooked. I've got hours and hours (and hours) of DV footage just waiting to be uploaded - stuff of the kids, stuff from film school.

I hope to post something tonight or tomorrow. First, I need to find my Firewire cable, though. Check my Vimeo page for updates.
Burnout 3: 50% complete
Well, I have been playing through the single-player mode on Burnout 3 for the past couple of weeks. I felt like I have been making pretty good progress; however, when I checked my "Driver Details" last night, it turns out that I am exactly 50% complete.

I guess I shouldn't complain because I am having so much fun playing it; however, it was a little disapointing to see that I still had so far to go.

I don't really need that much sleep, I guess.
Showing the house today
We got a call from our realtor's office this morning at around 10:30 AM. They wanted to show the house at 1:30 PM. So I headed home over my lunch hour and helped Amy get everything squared away for the showing.

While we were doing that, one of our realtor's partners came by to take all of the photos of the interior and exterior for the listing, so it was pretty crazy.

Hopefully they will like it...
Friday, May 20, 2005
Reaction to Wal-Mart / Netflix deal
Members over at HackingNetflix are mixed in their opinion of the news that Wal-Mart will ditch its own DVD-by-mail business and use Netflix instead.

I, for one, am glad that Wal-Mart is out of the market. I never thought the idea made sense for them.

I just hope the lack of competition (there are rumors about Blockbuster getting out of the DVD-by-mail business) doesn't slow the innovation that we've seen from Netflix over the past year. They didn't really start adding new features until Wal-Mart and Blockbuster started their services.
New books from O'Reilly
I just received the new "Home Theater Hacks" and "Smart Home Hacks" from O'Reilly. After thumbing through both, there looks to be a lot of good info. I'll be posting interesting tidbits from them here as I read them.

Coincidentally, Hack #40 is all about adding Aura Bass Shaker speakers to your couch. Hmm, that's an idea. Hack #41 even shows you how to modify the Bass Shakers to reach lower frequencies.
Google Personalized
RexWorld sent me a link to Google's new personalized page that they have launched within the Google Labs section of their site. Damn, it's cool.

From a feature standpoint, it isn't really much different from something like My Yahoo! (which I have never found any use for). However, from the technology side, it is just cool (like so many Google apps). Everything on the page is draggable so that customization of the layout is a snap.

It is a great example of the whole AJAX approach (thanks for creating more buzzwords, Jesse James Garrett) where JavaScript powers the front end.

Check it out if you haven't already:
http://www.google.com/ig
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Picked up a new receiver for my couch hack
I just about have all of the pieces for the bass shaker couch hack.

After failing to find a cheap 2-channel receiver (50 watts per channel or less) on eBay for a decent price (everybody wanted $20 or more for shipping), I decided to check out ShopOnkyo.com. I purchased my current 6.1 receiver and speakers from them and got a ridiculously good deal.

I was able to pick up their TX-8211 receiver, which lists for about $250, for around $80 and that included shipping and tax.

I'm sure some of you (including my wife) are asking why the heck I needed another receiver.

My plan is to not only use the TX-8211 to power the bass shakers in the couch, but to also use it to power the speakers I will be installing on the patio at the new house. I figure $80 for a $250 receiver is a pretty good deal.
Revenge of the Sith
Well, a few co-workers and I went to see Episode III this afternoon. I think I kind of liked it. Way better than the last two. My biggest complaint (besides the acting) is the quick turn to the Dark Side for Anakin.
More user-hostile DRM from the MPAA
When will the MPAA and the RIAA learn that hating your customers will never payoff for them? The latest in the long line of user-hostile measures involves a UCLA researcher who is trying to develop a biometric, RFID-based DRM system.

According to this WIRED article, the system, which luckily seems doomed to fail, will require a user to enter a password or scan their fingerprint (seriously!) in order to watch a DVD that they purchased (that they purchased!).

The article doesn't say for sure; however, I would be willing to bet that the MPAA is underwriting this guy's research.

Instead of treating every customer like a criminal, maybe the movie industry should adjust their business model to meet customer needs. Hmm. There's a thought.
GameSpot's live coverage of E3
OK, I know I've posted a lot of video game-related stuff lately; however, it's E3, so gimme a break. Anyway, GameSpot is streaming live video from E3 for the entire length of the show. They are also archiving all of the video in case you miss something.

I'm getting ready to check out some of yesterday's stuff right now. The one that immediately caught eye was "Holy Aftertouch, Batman!" Batman Begins, Burnout 4, Burnout for PSP." Burnout 4!!! MUST.. HAVE... IT!

http://www.gamespot.com/e3/e3live.html
Which new console is the best?
News.com has a poll on which new gaming console, the XBOX 360, the PS3 or Nintendo Revolution, is "the best." For some reason, the PS3 is in the lead (as of this post). I bet you can guess how I voted.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Bass shakers arrived
I am one step closer to hacking my couch. My Aura Bass Shaker speakers arrived today. I probably won't get a chance to play with them until this weekend. BTW, it was first time ordering from Parts Express; however, I would definitely recommend them. I received my order in two days.
Sweet, sweet victory - Part 2
Sweet, sweet victory - Part 2Well, Bryan decided that one night of hockey beatdowns wasn't enough, so he asked for a little more.

Before I recap tonight's games, let me note that Bryan went so far as accusing me of cheating when he was confronted with his lackluster performance at the office today. That's low, Bryan.

Anyway, pretty much the same story tonight. First game, I won 6 to 3. Second game was yet another victory for me. This time, it was 9 to 3. And to top it off, two of our players got in a fight and guess what? That's right, I won that, too!

For those keeping score at home, my NHL record is now 4-0 against Bryan. I've also outscored him 37 - 12 over those 4 games.
Gmail alerts users of phishing
I was checking my Gmail account tonight and noticed one of those eBay phishing e-mails. When I opened it to take a closer look at it, I noticed that Gmail places a big red warning above the body of the mail that says: "Warning: This message may not be from whom it claims to be. Beware of following any links in it or of providing the sender with any personal information."

There is also a link to a page that explains phishing and what to look out for.

I'm glad to see them taking steps to stop users from falling victim to such scams.
The "For Sale" sign is in the yard
I knew it was coming; however, it is still a bit surprising to see the "For Sale" sign in our yard. I was playing a little Burnout 3 after work (I am sMoRTy71 and I am a Burnout 3 addict...) when I noticed a guy sticking the sign in the yard.

Houses in our neighborhood sell pretty quickly, so I am hoping that this will be over soon. I don't know how long we can keep the house clean before the kids revolt.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Sweet, sweet victory!
Sweet, sweet victory!My co-worker Bryan challenged me to a little NHL2K5 on XBOX Live tonight.

We have a friendly little rivalry that extends back to last football season when a glitch in NFL2K5 gave Bryan (and his heartless Titans) a win. Since then, Bryan refused to play me (think he knew it was a fluke?).

Even though it was a different sport, I figured I should take any chance to redeem myself, so I agreed to play him. To say that I am fully redeemed would be a bit of an understatement.

In Game 1, Bryan was outscored 12 (yes, 12!) to 4. And I even scored one of his goals for him. In Game 2, it was a little bit closer. Bryan was only outscored 10 (yes, 10!) to 2. And this time, Bryan scored all of his goals himself! Atta boy, Bryan! Let me know when you're ready for more...
MPAA lobbies for legislation
The broadcast flag was killed last week on the grounds that the FCC did not have authority over a digital signal once it had reached the TV. Now, the MPAA is proposing legislation that will give the FCC that authority.

If you support fair use, then I urge you to contact your representatives in Congress and voice your concern over the broadcast flag.
Looks like Sony is ready for a fight
News.com is reporting that the upcoming Playstation 3 will have specs that rival those of the XBOX 360 - super-fast processor, wireless controllers, wifi and gigabit ethernet.

According to the upcoming TIME magazine cover story on the XBOX 360, Microsoft intends to release Halo 3 at the same time that Sony releases the PS3.

IMO, backward compatibility will be the key issue for a lot of gamers. If Sony delivers it (which they say they will) and MS doesn't (they haven't said either way), it could be trouble for the 360.

Also, MS is killing Sony in online gaming. Sony will have to really prove themselves there to stay competitive with the hard-core gamer.

The next 12 months should be fun to watch. I'm definitely sticking with the XBOX; however, it will be interesting to see if the 6 month headstart in the market (and the promise of Halo 3) will be enough to move XBOX closer to the top.
Monday, May 16, 2005
I'm gonna hack my couch
Couch hackI got the second issue of Make magazine in the mail today and it has a project that I am dying to do - bass shakers that mount to your home theater seating. I think it will be the perfect addition to my manroom.

I had seen these similar devices from Buttkicker in the past; however, they were pretty expensive. The Make version, though, is only around $40 if you have an old stereo receiver around.

I ordered the Aura Bass Shaker speakers from partsexpress.com tonight for $29 (they were originally $100). Once I get them, the entire thing should only take about 30 minutes to get up and running. I'll post pictures and first impressions when it's finished.

BTW, Make has this couch hack available for free on their site.
I want an XBOX 360 right now!
Seems like every site I go to has some other cool detail about the XBOX 360 that makes me want one.

Tom's Hardware got a demo of the 360 and found that you can plug other USB peripherals (iPod, PSP, digital camera) into it for plug and play access to digital photos or MP3s. It also says that users with a media PC (probably a Media Center Edition PC only) will be able to stream HD video through the 360.

Plus GameSpot has a bunch of video clips from upcoming 360 games. Sega's Full Auto looks like Burnout 3 but with missles and machine guns. There are a bunch of sports games (my personal favorite genre) slated for the 360 including Madden, NBA 2K6, Tiger Woods 2006, Top Spin 2 and Amped 3.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Damn, Clif Bars are good!
Clif Bars! Mmm.Amy has been slowing (but surely) converting all of the food in the house to organic, soy-based products. I usually give her a hard time for all of the stuff she buys (except the soy milk which I love). However, today I discovered the Clif Bars she bought. Damn, these things are good. I tried the Crunchy Peanut Butter one and I immediately wanted to eat about 10 more.

For those of you that don't like to mingle with hippies at Whole Foods or Wild Oats, you can order direct from the Clif Bar website. 12 bars for $14.25.
Back on the Burnout 3 crackpipe
Well, it didn't take long to get totally hooked on Burnout 3 again. After working on the house this weekend, I stayed up way too late working on the "World Tour" mode of the game. I think I completed something like 25 events (with Gold medals) yesterday.

Mahlon and Miles have been wanting to play it a lot, too. They love to play the "Double Impact" mode. It is the first video game for the XBOX that Miles has been able to play by himself.
Listing the house on Wednesday
Our realtor called today and said that Wednesday is the day we list the house. Seems like we still have a few things to get finished; however, I guess if we don't set a date, we'll continue to let it slip.

I finished up the kitchen this morning. I'll have to do a couple of things in the yard and on the exterior of the house today.

After that, it will really just be a matter of getting everything clean and keeping it clean (that will be the hard part).

So if you know anyone who wants a great house in a terrific neighborhood, let me know.
Friday, May 13, 2005
MTV XBOX 360 infomercial = lame
I was pretty excited to watch the XBOX 360 infomercial on MTV last night. I wanted to see the hardware, hear about the features and see some games in action. What I got was Elijah Wood playing the role of Downtown Julie Brown in a flashback to Club MTV.

What sucks the most is that it appears that MTV shot lots of great footage. For example, they sent Sway, one of their worst on-air "personalities," to the Microsoft campus to learn about the development process for building the new XBOX 360. Instead of getting anything substantial in the way of product specs or features, all we got was a rapid-fire montage of all of the physical mock-ups that didn't get chosen and J. Allard comparing the XBOX Marketplace to an online retailer.

The show actually spent more time pimping their own show (with the Pimp My Ride guys building a custom XBOX) and promoting the Killers (why we they there again?) who sang two songs during the 30 minute show. Overall, the show was a total dud.

The release date for the console was not mentioned. It has been widely speculated that it will launch on November 15th, the 4th anniversary of the original. If so, it is a bit curious that they showed Madden NFL 2006 as a launch title considering that the NFL season is almost half way over by then.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Time to build some droids
My new issue of MAKE magazine arrived today. I guess I will need to stop all of these silly house projects and focus on building a droid out of old Dr. Pepper cans and a 9 volt battery. Sweet!

CORRECTION: Upon arriving home, I was a bit disappointed to learn that MAKE had sent the premiere issue (instead of the new issue). While it is cool to get the first one, this is one of my all-time magazine subscription pet peeves. It always seems like a way for the magazine to shorten your subscription period. After all, what if I had already bought the first issue and sent in the subscription card?

I guess I can build the $14 steadicam while I wait for the new issue.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Real photos of the XBOX 360
Attendees of the taping of MTV's upcoming XBOX special apparently took photos of the new console. It looks as if they are exactly like the photos that Engadget posted yesterday.

The third photo shows a remote for the XBOX 360 that looks like it features a Windows Media Center Edition start button. Hmm.
No new Chappelle this month (or next)
Whether it's drugs or pressure or just creative differences, there will be no new season of Chappelle's Show any time soon. Comedy Central has been promoting the hell out of the May season premiere; however, CC has apparently pulled the plug on production.

I guess I'll just have to be content with watching the Wayne Brady skit over and over when the DVDs from Season 2 come out on the 24th.
Sunday, May 8, 2005
More house projects
This weekend has been a blur with projects around the house. We've still got quite a few to do; however, we knocked out a bunch on Friday and Saturday.

Friday: Planted smaller plants and bushes out front; Added mulch and small plants to the side of the house; Cleaned tree pollen globs from gutter guards

Saturday: Installed another light fixture in playroom; Installed a new dishwasher (and removed the old one that died on Wednesday); Mowed the grass; Trimmed bushes and trees; Finished pressuring washing the front sidewalk; Applied polyurethane to new wicker patio set.

Whew! Luckily, today is Mother's Day so we can take a little break. I'm taking my mom to brunch at Lynn's Paradise Cafe. Later, the kids and I are taking Amy to dinner.
Friday, May 6, 2005
Broadcast flag dead... for now
Engadget is reporting that the U.S. Court of Appeals has struck down the FCC's broadcast flag which limits what kinds of digital content can be recorded. The flag was going to force TV manufacturers to build technology into their sets (starting on July 1 of this year) that would recognize the flag and prevent users from recording content that was flagged by the broadcaster.

I'm not sure what recourse the FCC has for appealing this decision; however, I can bet the MPAA already has their lobbyists working on it.

http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000207042541/
Thursday, May 5, 2005
Pre-Derby cookout at work
Me manning the grill
I got suckered into working the grill for a few minutes.

One of my coworkers organized a little pre-Derby cookout today. We had hamburgers, hot dogs and the herbivores brought vegetarian versions of both. Because I don't eat much meat at home, I dogged out 3, yes 3, hamburgers. I washed the burgers down with a little game of 2-on-2 basketball.

Eric B took some photos of the action. Check them out on Flickr.
Picked up Burnout 3 for $20
I stopped by Target after work to pick up a Mother's Day card. During my usual stroll through the clearance sections, I found that they had marked Burnout 3 (for both XBOX and PS2) down to $19.99. I had no choice but to buy it. It is definitely one of the best games I've played in a couple of years. Plus, because I had rented B3 when I was trying out Gamefly, all of my profile data and completed missions are intact. Sweet!
Pepsi with Lime kicks Coke with Lime's ass!
I had to run into the grocery store this morning to pick up some shredded cheese for Mahlon's Cinco de Mayo luncheon at school. As I was heading to check out, I noticed that Pepsi has rolled out a Lime-flavored version.

I have tried drinking Coke with Lime; however, it just wasn't as good as drinking regular Coke with a slice of lime in it. Plus, it seemed flatter than regular Coke.

Anyway, I figured I would try the Pepsi one since I prefer the choice of a new generation. Wow! It was really good. Way better than the Coke version plus it doesn't have a stupid jingle associated with it.

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.