Nerds only: Name that onesie contest

Recently, I discovered Zazzle, an online apparel & merchandise store that allows you to order and sell custom products you design. And, like any excited father-to-be, I could barely contain my delight after finding the section for custom baby shirts and onesies. I’m not much of a graphic designer but I am very much a computer nerd. The idea that I can create clothes for my kid, over the Web, is right up my alley. I could not pass this up.

Off I went. Clicking and typing, dragging and dropping, searching for clip art, uploading images, choosing fonts, resizing and repositioning. I mastered the interface before deciding exactly what the 6-12 month, organic onesie I was bent on creating would say. But, there was no turning back. After tossing around some ideas, in a flash of pure geekdom, I knew what I wanted the shirt to say and how I wanted the message conveyed.

Rather than tell you the punch line, I decided I would invite the rest of you nerds to decipher for yourselves. Below is an image of the front and back of the actual one-of-a-kind (for now) onesie which arrived earlier today. Like my previous “A pictures is worth 300 albums” contest, the first person to leave a comment correctly describing the front & back will win a fun prize.

This contest will run for a week or until we have a winner, whichever occurs first.

keith-custom-onesie-hidden

(Need a hint? Start here.)

The Animal Kingdom, Part 3

Travis the chimp I have been giving fair warning for over two years now yet people still haven’t learned. A 200-pound, “pet” chimpanzee attacked and severely mauled a woman today in Stamford, Connecticut. You know you’re in for it when you have a pet that weighs 200 pounds and you can only bench, say, 30 tops.

To me, it’s still not clear who won that battle. The chimp is dead, sure, but not before he bit off both his victim’s hands, completely disfigured her face, got shanked a few times with a butcher knife by his owner, chased a policeman into his cruiser after being stabbed AND took “several” rounds, close-range, from the cop’s firearm. And, if that weren’t enough, the chimp then retreated to his living quarters to die. Brings a whole new meaning to “Live free, die hard."

Similar to my previous Animal Kingdom post, I allocate points as follows:

Travis (the chimp): 1
Sandra Herold (the owner): 1
Charla Nash (the victim): 0.5
Policeman: nil

Jack Bauer has nothing on Travis the chimp. Ms. Herold gets a point for her quick-wittedness and knife work that saved her friend’s life. Ms. Nash gets half a point for surviving the brutal attack. The police officer must have had both eyes closed to fire several rounds close-range and not kill Travis immediately.

All that said, the silliest part of this whole story is the photographer (or Fox editor?) who decided to whiten Travis’ teeth in the photo of him above taken in 2003. Was he auditioning for a Crest Whitestrips commercial?

Building a fast Windows Vista machine for video processing

About six months before embarking on my quest to build a top-of-the-line Vista Media Center from off-the-shelf parts, I researched, purchased and assembled all the components to build my home workstation. My goal was to create a moderately fast machine capable of running 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate. The machine needed to have sufficient processing power, memory and storage for editing and rendering video—one of the most computationally intensive tasks that can bring a machine to its knees.

With the following hardware I was able to obtain a Vista Windows Experience Index (WEI) of 4.8:

  • 3 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 CPU (overclocked to 3.83 GHz)
  • 4 GB G.SKILL DDR2 800 RAM
  • EVGA NVIDIA GeForce 7600GS 512 MB Graphics Adapter
  • 320 GB Samsung HD321KJ SATA-2 7,200 RPM Hard Drive

Windows Experience Index before upgrade

The Vista WEI ranges from 1.0 to 5.9 so a score of 4.8 is respectable. Furthermore, as you can see in the image above, the processor, memory and hard drive contributed individual scores of 5.7 or greater. Since overall WEI reflects the weakest link, the 4.8 graphics adapter score pulled down my system rating. At that time, it was not a big deal. I am not much of a gamer and the graphics adapter was fast enough for standard definition video editing and periodic movie conversions. That was May 2007.

Fast-forward about 18 months to when I first learned of NVIDIA CUDA parallel computing architecture and the novel way a few software companies were using it to significantly accelerate video processing in their products. I had been using TMPGEnc 4.0 XPress by Pegasys for a few years for converting videos for portable devices, my media center and the Web. Also, Elemental Technologies was getting amazing results and stellar reviews for its Badaboom Media Converter. Both companies had incorporated CUDA into the processing pipelines of their respective products resulting in 5-10x speed improvements. The only problem: Only the GeForce 8000 series and later NVIDIA graphics adapters support CUDA. I had an older 7600 series. 🙁

A faster graphics adapter would surely increase my system’s WEI but I would also need to do something about my hard drive. The difference between 5.7 and 5.9 seems minor but for a hard drive it turns out it is fairly significant. It is particularly noticeable when it comes to reading and writing files several gigabytes in size, typical of video processing. For example, a 2 1/2 hour HD broadcast can consume over 30 GB of disk space.

After several weeks of research including reviews, benchmarks and price comparisons, I was ready to take the plunge and upgrade my hard drive and graphics adapter.

With the upgraded hardware, my system currently is as follows (only the last two items have changed):

  • 3.00 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 CPU (overclocked to 3.83 GHz)
  • 4 GB G.SKILL DDR2 800 RAM
  • ASUS NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 896 MB Graphics Adapter
  • 300 GB Western Digital VelociRaptor SATA-2 10,000 RPM Hard Drive

Windows Experience Index after upgrade

This upgrade increased my system’s WEI from 4.8 to 5.8. As you can see in the image above, every element in my system (except the CPU) now achieves the Vista maximum of 5.9. The upgrades together set me back $510—$240 for the drive, $270 for the graphics adapter.

Was it worth it? If converting a 2-hour DVD movie for playback on your iPhone/iPod/Zune/etc. in 10-15 minutes is important to you, or you edit and render a lot of video and don’t want your machine slowing to a crawl, absolutely. Otherwise, use the $510 and buy your videos on iTunes or Amazon Unbox.

I have been running this new system configuration for a couple months now and the performance improvement is very noticeable. I figure I will be happy with my system for another 12 months or so at which point Microsoft Windows 7, Intel Core i7 processors and plunging prices of Intel X25-M SSD drives will make a new round of upgrades hard to resist.