February 04, 2007

Another first

Today, at lunch, as we were about to sit down to eat spaghetti:

Me: "Nathan, do you want a bib?"

Nathan, clearly disgusted: "No. Bib little baby. Nathan big kid."

OK, then.

Posted by Mike at 09:56 PM | Comments (1)

February 13, 2007

Broadway musicals are corrupting our nation's youth

Nathan recently has enjoyed listening to the "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" Broadway soundtrack. "Little Known Facts" ends:

LINUS: Lucy, why is Charlie Brown banging his head against that tree?
LUCY: To loosen the bark to make the tree grow faster.

Yesterday, Meredith found Nathan hitting himself over the head with a wooden spoon. When asked why, he replied

"I grow faster."

I think we need Congressional hearings on the damaging influence of Broadway musicals. Think of the children!

Posted by Mike at 02:09 PM | Comments (2)

February 16, 2007

Zune CPU usage

Gizmodo recently posted an entry noting that Zune seemed to be "using abnormally high amounts of CPU on Vista" compared to iTunes.

The entry reads:

Is it just our machine, or does the Zune software use a hell of a lot more CPU on Windows Vista than iTunes? They were pretty equal back on Windows XP SP2. Readers?

I have no idea what they were doing when they saw this (music playback? video playback? sync? finding the 19381837184627364th digit of Pi?), but, hey, I can try.

On my home Vista machine (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz), here's the report from Process Explorer on CPU usage for Zune 1.2 vs iTunes 7.0.2 while playing a 128kbit stereo AAC file (Idiot Wind off Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks album). Obviously, CPU usage varies during playback, but I set the refresh rate on Process Explorer to 10 seconds to try to smooth out the bumps, and didn't grab the screen shot until the song had been playing for a while (so the startup effects aren't measured).

Sitting in the library view, no visualizer running:

With the visualizer (default options, roughly same window size, unclipped window):


Posted by Mike at 05:09 PM | Comments (1)

Moving Day at Zune Central

Today was work from home day, because everyone in the Zune building is moving offices. They finally finished remodeling the upstairs a few weeks ago, so now the giant shuffle happens. You'd think I'd be used to this moving thing by now. In the last year...

  1. Move from California to Redmond (March 2006)
  2. Move to the first (temporary) Zune building. My 'office' was a section in a row of tables pushed against a wall in a conference room (April 2006). Since this isn't an official office move -- my 'official' office is still back in Building 50 -- I get to move myself.
  3. Find out on a Friday morning that that Facilities has decided that they are going to start heavy remodeling of the area we're squatting in as of Monday morning. We all move ourselves down to the other end of the building. The 'office' is a common space with, again, a bunch of tables. At least we looked out onto a field and a bunch of trees.
  4. A month or so later, back to my office in Building 50.
  5. A week later, find out that I have to move offices again. Down the hall. I'm sure there's a good reason, although it escapes me at the time. And now.
  6. Around October or November, move into the new Zune building. At least Facilities moved my stuff this time.
  7. Today, move again.

It hasn't always been this ridiculous. But the last year has been absurd.

Posted by Mike at 11:00 PM

February 18, 2007

Pseudo-HD: why resolution isn't everything

Last December, I finally bought an HD set. It's a Sony Bravia 46" LCD. The picture is gorgeous. Sony may be writing the book on how not to launch a game console, but their televisions are still quite nice.

For Christmas, Meredith got me the first season of Battlestar Galactica on DVD. A few weeks ago, we watched the miniseries from the DVD using my Xbox 360's DVD player. The DVD is in standard-def, of course, but the 360 does a decent job of upscaling it to the 1080i output. You'd never mistake it for HD, but it was passable.

The day after we watched that, I noticed that Universal HD on Comcast was showing the same miniseries from BSG. I started watching it to see how much better it looked in HD.

It didn't.

High-Def just defines the resolution. Universal HD / Comcast (not sure who compresses the signal; probably Comcast) was broadcasting the show at 1920x1080 pixels, but they were some awfully fuzzy pixels. Crank the bitrate down far enough, and the detail that can go into those pixels drops dramatically, making the picture look worse or no better than something with less resolution.

This isn't just about HD vs. SD. Some digital TV providers broadcast SD signals in 480x480, then scale them up to full SD (640x480 if you assume square pixels). This will often look better at a given bitrate than sending the signal with the same bitrate at 640x480, because the available bits/pixel is so much worse in the full-resolution case. This is more true at lower bitrates; at sufficiently high bitrates, you should definitely use the higher resolution.

But Universal HD is a joke at the bitrate they're using on Comcast.

Posted by Mike at 12:55 PM

February 20, 2007

Random family news

Nathan's newest most-requested song: "You Shook Me All Night Long" from Back in Black. My heart swells with paternal pride.

Nathan likes to ask what's playing whenever he hears music. He'll ask again if the song somehow sounds different. Or he'll ask about every ten seconds, just to make sure he didn't miss a song change. For some reason, "Bring It On Home" by Led Zeppelin seems to provoke near constant querying.

His ability to express ideas is getting better and better. A couple of weeks ago, after I explained that something he was doing would likely hurt him, he said, "and that make Nathan little sad." A few days ago, after a similar conversation, it was "and that make Daddy little sad if Nathan get hurt." Today, it was "and that make Nathan sad and Daddy sad." If you wonder why we are so frequently discussing sources of great bodily injury, I suggest you've spent little time around a two-year-old boy lately.

Meredith and I went out on a date Saturday night. We never celebrate Valentine's Day, as, going back to the very first month or two we were dating, one of us (almost always her) has been busy the night of Valentine's. That first one she was on a youth group sleepover; this year she had evening class at Seattle University. So we celebrate February 17th, instead. We had dinner at Pogacha in Issaquah (tasty), then saw Shadowlands at the Village Theatre. We had a wonderful time. And then when we got home, we discovered that Nathan was still awake. He stayed that way until about 2:30 AM.

Melissa arrives Thursday night for a few days. We told Nathan on Saturday; he replied, "Nathan watch TV and wait for Aunt M to get here." Ah, no.

He's been back on a streak of taking forever to go to sleep. Also, it seems that it's my turn to be the One Parent who can get him to sleep. Meredith will try with him for an hour or two, but he just won't go to sleep with her lately. Most of the time he's decided to get picky like that, she's been it, so I guess it's my turn or something. The other night, he announced, "Nathan need milk." I said no. "Nathan drink milk, get energy." Yes, that's what he needs at 10:30 at night.

The terrible twos so far haven't been all that terrible. For sure he has more temper tantrums than we'd like (witness the ~20 minute fight to get him dressed every single day). But on the plus side, he can tell us a lot more now. He recently stopped mid-wail to say, "I crying because [whatever it was]", then went back to his wail. But at least he told us.

Posted by Mike at 10:39 PM