Logitech Harmony 880 Remote Control

Continuing my recent, impromptu series on consumer electronics and their underlying technologies, I will now discuss one of the finest programmable, universal remote controls I have had the pleasure of owning: the Logitech Harmony 880 Universal Remote Control.

I have spent a lot of money on programmable remote controls over the last decade.  I have never been a fan of the coffee table full of remotes and always felt embarrassed whenever guests drooled in anticipation of the visual and aural deluge which surely awaited them behind the panoply of shiny glass & metal cabinets packed with high-end audio/video electronics but couldn’t figure out how to turn the system on.

We have owned everything from the first-generation Philips Pronto to an AMX Viewpoint VPT-CP behemoth that worked through floors & walls and integrated with a Landmark whole-house automation system.  Yes, a lot of money.

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Why DivX is Cool

As promised, here is my short primer on DivX.

DivX is a godsend for anyone who travels a lot and watches movies on a laptop or other portable device that supports the format. What it allows you to do is compress DVD movies down to a fraction of their size without sacrificing quality.

Traveling with the actual discs means I have to bring my laptop’s DVD drive and, as a result, I cannot use the modular bay for the 2nd battery instead. Without the 2nd battery, the laptop only lasts about 3 hours (vs. 5 hours) and most of my flights are over 3 hours long nowadays.

It does take some extreme nerd cred (and about 6 hours of computer processing time per 2-hour movie) to get the best quality vs. compression but the ability to take a dozen movies with me at under 1GB each makes the ordeal worthwhile. For comparison, a 2-hour uncompressed DVD movie uses about 4.7GB. The DivX format allows me to take 5x as many movies compared to just ripping the DVDs to my laptop’s hard drive.

If you are interested in earning your nerd cred, grab the DivX Community Codec (free) and read up on Gordian Knot (free). Otherwise, just buy DivX Pro for Windows ($20) and include the MPEG-2/DVD plug-in ($10) which together will provide everything you need in a simple-to-use interface.

Buying a DVD Recorder

I recently purchased a like-new RCA DRC8060N DVD Recorder for $99 (MSRP $299.99) on eBay (there were a lot more the last time I checked). I read about it in a recent issue of Sound & Vision magazine but, despite the glowing review, I really saw no need for what I considered essentially a fancy VCR that used expensive recordable DVD+R/DVD+RW discs instead of videotapes. Furthermore, I was convinced using the device would be a major PITA (pain in the…) and assumed the discs were unlikely to play in any other DVD player or computer DVD-ROM drive.

What led to the change of heart? I am glad you asked…

TB watches Oprah. Oprah comes on TV a lot. The storage capacity of our Comcast DVR is quite anemic. TB routinely gets behind a dozen or so episodes of Oprah. TB does not like to delete the stale episodes of Oprah. Our DVR starts complaining about lacking the space required to record upcoming shows I care about. TB reigns supreme over the TV/DVR so either my shows have to go or I needed to find a way to archive that inane backlog of Oprah episodes. (No, I’m not bitter.)

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An article I wrote for work entitled “Simplifying Ajax-Style Web Development” was published in the May issue of the IEEE’s Computer magazine.  If you have used Gmail, Flickr, any parts of Windows Live, etc. you have encountered Ajax.

The first part of the article presents a brief history of Asynchronous Javascript and XML (Ajax), then introduces the benefits and shortcomings of developing web sites using Ajax techniques.  The article goes on to describe how Microsoft’s framework (code-named “Atlas“) reduces complexity, enhances productivity and enables the simple creation of richer user experiences via access to application services and other components of the Microsoft platform.

You can view the article online by first reviewing the relevant post on my work blog.  It is very high-level and includes examples to illustrate key concepts and benefits.

Let me know what you think.

Screenshot of article



Five Months on the Job: Building Relationships

Is it just me or are these months flying by really quickly?

This month’s job review post is about my responsibilities for building relationships and forging mutually beneficial associations with internal and external partners.  Having managed a team of engineers for several years in my prior role, I always valued the human interaction components of working for a large corporation, in general, and Microsoft, specifically.  Establishing professional ties and nurturing those relationships have created some of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of my career so far.

It was the opportunity to be in a role which requires me to branch out even more and interact with personalities and professions I otherwise would have avoided that led me to pursue a position in marketing as a product manager.  As I have become more familiar with this discipline and its expectations these past months, I have had to be more mindful of the “who” rather than myopically focusing on the “what,” “how” and “when.”

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