Category Archives: Web/Tech

Riverfront Park Website Upgrade

I maintain a website for a relatively new local Sewickley, Pa. Park called “Riverfront Park” that includes a few full-size railroad artifacts (including an H.K. Porter steam engine and a “bobber-style” caboose).   Its also a great place for the rail fan because it has an overlook for one of Norfolk and Southern’s busiest current rail lines.

I have recently moved the park’s website over to the same Typepad style blog/website that I use for this blog.   I like Typepad and it is easier for me to maintain the site through this interface.   Also, Typepad’s recently added “pages” function makes it easier to set it up like a more traditional website rather than strictly a blog.

If you are interested in see the new site, click .

Carbonite Online Backup

I’ve recently converted to Carbonite Online Backup as our "emergency" backup solution for our home PCs.  So far, I love this service.  Its a flat-rate "set-it and forget-it" off-site back-up solution if you have an always-on internet connection. It automatically backs-up any new files that are added to your computer during periods of low or no internet usage to an off-site facility.  The only down-side is that the service may take a week or more to perform the initial backup if you have large, full drives (as I do).  After that, it works invisibly by only sending changes to the service.  Download new photos to your PC, and they get backed up later that night without  having to remember to trigger a back-up, etc.

Off-site backup is particularly important if you use your computer to store valuable digital photos that would be irreplaceable in the event of a fire (that destroys all of your on-site backups).

Burning DVDs from TIVO should not be this hard…

I love TIVO..its one of the great tech innovations of the past 10 years.  I’ve had my TIVO wirelessly networked to our home computer network for a long time now, but only recently have I tried to burn my downloaded TIVO shows to DVDs.  This should be an easy task.  It is not (at least until you get all of the buggy software to work together).

Over the past week I have worked with both of the two leading DVD burning software packages in their "latest" incarnations – Roxio Media Create 8 and Nero Ultra 7.   I am using TIVO Desktop 2.2 software to download the shows from the TIVO unit.

Neither Roxio or Nero worked with TIVO out of the box without patches, etc…and I was never able to get Roxio to work with TIVO at all without using other 3rd-party tools.

After I frustrating week and wasting the price of the Roxio software, I’ve gotten Nero to work and will stick with them.

Lessons learned:

1.  Roxio Media Create 8 and Nero Ultra 7 cannot reside on the same machine..they have serious conflicts
2.  I was never able to get Roxio Media Create 8 to work with TIVO files at all, even though the box says that it will work with TIVO
3.  After Nero is fully patched, it will work with TIVO even though it does not advertise this fact
4.  Roxio does not seem to work with TIVO even after it is fully patched, even though it advertises that it DOES work.  The message boards are full of comments along these lines, so I know that I am not alone in this issue.
5.  Working with TIVO files has its own set of problems that are different from working with other media formats.

So, I dumped Roxio (which was my first choice) and am sticking with Nero.  Both products are buggy and dog slow (on my new Athlon 64 with plenty of HD space), but Nero seems to be less buggy and slow.  How’s that for an endorsement?   Why is making DVD burning software so hard?

“Visible Computer” Project

Its been a busy couple of weeks at home and work, so the workshop has not gotten much use.

I did manage  to crank out a bunch of house projects, repairing plaster, interior paint, etc, but not many fun projects.

I began ordering parts for a summer tech project for my son and me.  We are going to “build” a computer from parts using a completely clear computer case that I found on EBay (made by Logisys).  My son will learn the components that make up a computer, and I will end up with a new computer at the end of the project (he’s still too young to have his own at 6).  Also, it will be fun.

This project reminds me of the plastic “Visible V-8” engine model that I built as a kid.  The engine was clear plastic so that you could see the interior parts of the mechanics.  The model ran on batteries so that you could watch everything move.  I really liked it.  I see this computer project as our modern version of the “Visible V-8”. (WOW!  I just found that the old “Visible V-8” model is still for sale…click here for link)

The clear computer case is Acrylic, so it does not have the heat dissipation properties of a traditional steel or aluminum case, but with 3 fans, I think it will be fine.  We also might install some interior lighting in the case so that you can see the internal parts “working” after in the computer is finished.

Goals for the final machine will be:

1.  Lots of storage for the family’s multi-media (tons of digital photos and music)
2.  Strong backup capability to protect above (maybe RAID 1 drives)
3.  Inexpensive processing.  All we need is typical photo editing, web, etc capabilities.  No need for high end 3-D GPU until my son is older.
4.  Built in media card reader (for photo cards) and DVD burner (for backups)
5.  Components ready for Microsoft Vista OS when it comes out in 2007.  We will use XP Home till then.

Make Magazine

I’ve found a new magazine that I really like.  Its called "Make."  Make
is hard to describe, but basically its "Popular Mechanics" for techno-geeks or gizmo DIYers.  It comes out four times a year in almost
book-like form (similar to a National Geographic magazine in size and
print quality), and is filled with mostly for-fun articles about
gadgets and gizmos that can be built in your workshop if you have the
time, patience and talent to do it.

Now, these are NOT "how to install a new sink in your bathroom" DIY
articles, these are "how to build an RC lawnmower with a hybrid
gas-electric motor" type articles…yikes!  I love it.  These people make my CNC-driven Etch-a-Sketch machine look normal.