the perfect alarm clock


The Philips USA AJL308 Clock Radio. Capsule review: Fatally Flawed. Pro: You can play mp3 or MPEG-4 .avi (!) files off an SD card. Con: For some stupid reason, you can’t trigger either one as your alarm. Also, the sound quality and the screen quality are awful. It went back to Target.

I’m a total idiot for alarm clocks. I seriously have drawers and drawers of them lying dormant, the battery powered ones still ticking the hours away to themselves. In my search for the perfect awakening, I have bought probably 15 alarm clocks in my life, and each is flawed in some fairly intrinsic way.

After 33 years of near-constant iteration, I’ve decided The Perfect Alarm Clock must:

  1. It must allow me to wake up to an mp3 of my choosing — without extra background noise.
  2. It must allow me to set a wake up schedule that takes into account weekends where I don’t have to wake up at a set time.
  3. It must have a display that is big and bright enough for me to see it without my glasses.
  4. …but not be *so* bright that it’s like I’m sleeping with a shard of kryptonite next to my bed. Ideally it’s completely dark or super super dim until I touch a button or something.

Right now, we’re using a $50 Memorex CD alarm. Its problems are:

  1. It’s a CD player, so we don’t really wake up to the sound of music. I wake up to the pppppttttooooooeeeeeee sound of the crappy CD drive spinning up.
  2. It’s SO BRIGHT that I have an index card over the display, because even on the dimmest setting it’s bright like the noontime sun.

So my friend Jon suggested that I have this nifty little linux eee laptop, and maybe I could use that for an alarm clock. And: maybe I can. I found an GNOME app descriptively named “Alarm Clock” which lets me set an mp3 for us to wake up to and set a fairly elaborate schedule that excludes weekends. There’s no snooze button, but I think I could work around that — what I’m finding inexplicable is that I can’t seem to find a full-screen linux digital clock app or screensaver. Seriously, that’s all I want, and I can’t seem to locate it. I tried setting up an xwindows screensaver thingy for gltext, and that works, but it’s *so small*.

Anyhow, any thoughts? I can’t believe I’m the first person to try and use linux as their alarm clock. Also much appreciated would be alternatives that satisfy alarm clock conditions #1-4.

SIDENOTE: This looks promising, but I can’t bring myself to spend that much for an alarm clock. Yet.

~Jeff

ask l-dopa: how do i fix my tiger server?

Our Tiger server here was acting as the primary mail exchanger for our domain. To my knowledge, it was set up with that in mind from the get go. I’ve since moved mail service away from this server, and put it with hosted Google services.

The problem is that we still occasionally need to use it as an SMTP server, but it isn’t properly relaying mail to accounts in our domain. Instead of sending them to the proper mail exchanger (google’s), it is holding them in its own mail queue, which never goes anywhere.

How do I tell it that it is no longer the mail server for our domain? I turned off POP and IMAP service, but it keeps on coming in and never leaving.

-Tucker

Well, Tucker, it’s important to consider what the server’s done for you in the past. Take it out for coffee and tell it that you’re still friends — it can still serve web sites, it can still come over and play video games. Seriously! You want to stay friends! You mean it! But it can’t keep being the mail server. It just can’t. Things have changed and there are… other priorities now. But you can still totally be friends! See it tomorrow? Yeah? Is it cool? You’re cool. Great. Hug it.

ask ldopa: collar stays

PKCS_T.jpg

Dear ldopa,

Sadly, I no longer have a job where it’s acceptable to every day wear ripped t-shirts and camouflage shorts. Thus, I have bought some nice shirts. However, as soon as I purchased the nice shirts, seconds after at my estimation, I lost the collar stays (the little plastic things that “stay” in the “collar”, you know — collar stays).

Where can I buy some of these suckers? Grocery store seems to be a big no.

Thanks,

~jeff

ask ldopa: itunes library auto updating

ITunes_Icon.png

I was wondering if y’all had a good way to get itunes to act more like a music server. Want I really want, is for it to auto update the iTunes music library folder, and update the library according. Either the library itself, or, a watch folder that it checks, and move the files according into the library, or copies them and then labels them (using finder labels or something like that).

Or am I trying to push iTunes too far, and is there an iTunes compatible solution that’s vastly better? Ideas?

~ jesse

things no one should ever, ever give for mother’s day: a guide for geeks


Well, you didn’t ask, but, birthdays and Mother’s Day are a source of true befuddlement for everyone and some people have it harder than others because, well, some people just don’t pick up on things. So guys, if you’re looking for some help, here’s what you need to know: generally, it’s the thought that counts, but there are a few additional guidelines.

First of all, no empty wrappers. It shows forethought, yes, but then it shows afterthought.

No mom should receive boring office supplies. Remember, she pushed you out of a very small orifice. Instead of having to acknowledge this every year on your birthday, we have Mother’s Day instead, so you can thank her in private. For exciting office supplies, consult your local bylaws. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself is if it is more or less exciting than a box of tacks.

Try not to get something she already has. Or is allergic to.

And, under no circumstances, should you ever give these. The temptation to use them for evil, even for your mom, is just too great.

ask ldopa: automated band hating

Dear ldopa,
I hate so many bands that I have trouble keeping track of them all. Is there an algorithm I can use to compute my level of hatred based just on the band’s name?
– Confused in Cambridge

…good question, CIC. I usually use the rule of thumb where I hate any band that has any of the words “Death”, “Cab”, or “Cutie” in the name, but readers may have better ideas; please feel free to post your tips for hating bands in the comments below.

~jeff

(quotation CSS code blatantly stolen from graciously donated by Trace Meek, probably the best web designer in the Pioneer Valley. If not the world.)

2005 videogaming overview

consoles! consoles! consoles!

Dear ldopa,
my wife wants me to get a video game console from the
Annual Gift Man. Problem is that the Gift Man doesn’t know which
system to get and, even worse, I do not know either. Should I
go for the 360? Or should I wait for the new offerings from
Sony and Nintendo? Or how about one of the portable systems?

…your wife wants you to buy her a videogame console for Christmas? Every man should have your problem:

  • The Xbox 360 ($400) has mighty pretty graphics, but currently zero (0) games that your wife will want to play. Also, unless you make “good friends” with a blue-polo-sportin’ Best Buy employee right now, there’s virtually no chance of you finding a unit for purchase before Annual Gift Man Day. This isn’t because they are so popular, this is because Microsoft apparently made about twenty of them for the entire continental United States. Also, the consensus on the Xbox 360 is that while it looks incredible on an HDTV, on a regular TV resolution, there’s nothing so jaw-droppingly amazing about it. Bottom line: unless she’s a nut for online gaming, which is pretty polished on the Xbox 360, I’d hold off for right now. The older model Xbox is a scary, noisy, obsolete doorstop which only exists to reject my fresh and newly bought games as “dirty or damaged” — stay away from the older Xbox entirely.
  • The Playstation 2 can be picked up for a song ($150) and has many inexpensive and used games, but at this point the graphics are a little behind the curve. The new Playstation 3 will be very technologically advanced, but expensive Ken Kutaragi, the president of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, keeps making ominous public statements as to how expensive the Playstation 3 will be — statements such as “Ninety-two weeks of salary is not too much to ask for a technological marvel such as the Playstation 3” and “I hope you haven’t become too attached to your youngest child, because soon you will gladly trade them for a Playstation 3” and “Hey — I couldn’t help noticing your child looks succulent and delicious” and “I really look forward to eating your child”. What PR purpose Kutaragi hopes to accomplish with these statements is unclear, but what is clear is that the Playstation 3 will probably be expensive and won’t be out until around March of next year. It’s probably worth waiting for the new model rather than picking up an older one, but start saving your pennies, and children, now.
  • As you may know, I have an unhealthy and forbidden love for all things Nintendo. I have the world’s largest collection of GameCube ($100) games, in fact, I just yesterday moved the entire collection to the other bedroom, and while I was moving it, I put the collection in order from “girlfriend-friendly” to “not-so-girlfriend-friendly”. I was impressed by the number of “girlfriend-friendly” GameCube games I own; I define “girlfriend-friendly” game as a game I would offer to play with my girlfriend, like “Super Monkey Ball”, and not a game I would hide away like underage-snuff-porn, like “Resident Evil 4”. Recently, Josh, Carrie and I have been having a lot of fun playing Monkey Boxing and WarioWare. Also, I love the wireless controllers Nintendo offers, they are cheap and comfortable and run forever on two AA batteries. And additionally I point out: it’s the cheapest of all your options at $100. However, the same caveat applies to buying a GameCube that would apply to buying a Playstation 2; next year there will be something much, much more advanced, so at this point it might be better to adopt a wait-‘n-see attitude.
  • Finally: I am an fool, soon parted from my money and so I own both a Sony PSP ($250) and the Nintendo DS ($130). I would wholeheartedly recommend the Nintendo DS; I’ve found lots of games I have enjoyed playing on the DS, while almost a year after purchase, the Sony PSP sits gameless. If your lovely wife would have any inclination for gaming-on-the-go (or gaming while lying around languidly in bed, another big plus for portable gaming) then I say pick one up. The downside is that two-person gaming becomes an expensive and extravagant affair — you’d have to pick up two — but two Nintendo DS’s cost about the same as one Sony PSP, and is still cheaper than one Xbox 360.

Hope this long, rambling polemic helped!

~jeff

frost heave

teh frost heave!!!1

Dear Ldopa,

I have a large “frost heave” lump in my driveway that scrapes the bottom of my car every time I leave my house (pictured above). My landlord doesn’t seem to want to fix it; her car has slightly greater ground clearance, so she doesn’t actually experience the problem. However, it’s causing real, actual damage to the bottom of my car and the bottom of my girlfriend’s car; how can I best get her to take this problem seriously? Or how can I fix the problem myself on the cheap?

Sincerely,

~jeff

a little dinner music

rice bowl

One of the things I’ve become quite fond of lately is “dinner music”, or the putting on of a specific playlist for having dinner and a glass of wine to. Here’s a list of what albums are currently on my “dinner music” playlist:

  • Art Tatum, Complete Capitol Recordings
  • John Coltrane, Ballads
  • Josh Coltrane, Lush Life
  • Miles Davis, Round About Midnight
  • Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
  • Ray Bryant, Montreux ’77
  • Stan Getz, Autour De Minuit
  • Stan Getz & Luis Bonfa, Jazz Samaba Encore!
  • Vince Guaraldi, In Person

…and a few other tracks here and there, but those particular albums are killer all the way through. Do you have any particularly good music you use as “dinner music”?

~jeff