Demolition Day

Today I stayed home from work to watch our kitchen fall apart. We first had to clean out all of our kitchen stuff – which I must say is quite a job. We then created a “kitchenette” upstairs in a spare bedroom. The demolition team arrived at noon to this clean, neat kitchen:

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A mere two hours later, we have this:

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Amazing how devastating two hours can be, yes?

Next up: plumbing!

The Whole Slab

We made a journey the other day to the same area that our granite counter top fabricator’s shop is, so we thought we’d stop in and see the slab. We had chosen it from a company out in Jessup, MD and they then shipped the slab to our fabricators.

Here’s a shot of it:

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Pretty, ain’t it? It will be the last thing installed, so we’re a bit impatient to get it home.

Let There Be Light

As many of you know, Laura and I are in the process of renovating our kitchen. We have already started with the electrical work, and next week [Wednesday] we will begin the demolition phase. We will, of course, be posting some photos – like these of some electrical work:

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Here are some of the after pictures:

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As you can see, we now have more light than we did before. And there’s still more to come!

Home Repairs Almost Done

After the Snowpocalypse, we had suffered the Ice Dam leakage which turned our master bedroom window sheetrock into slush. The blinds fell off and we had to cut holes in the sheetrock to drain the water. It’s now been repaired [well, it has been for a while] and finally painted.

And not just “repainted” mind you, but we had to choose a new color since the old color was basically smoker’s dirty white. So, after much consternation over the exact shading of the various colors, we have completed the paint job on the house. Here’s the after pictures:

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Choosing the right shade of green for the walls wasn’t hard since we’ve wanted that color for a while. What was hard was choosing the right ceiling color. It’s not white – it’s actually a faint shade of green, but you can’t tell from pictures.

Here’s some pictures of the process:

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We still have to install new blinds and/or drapes.

Snowpocalypse: 2010

I have to say that this year has been the most snow I’ve ever seen in my life. That’s really not saying much since I spent my formative and most of my adult life living in Houston, but I’ve been in winter storms before. I’ve even been in one in Wyoming that had more snow overall than this, but I didn’t stay for the whole thing.

This, however, is the most I’ve ever had to shovel from the driveway by far!The first Big-Dig of 2010

There were over two feet in the driveway – possibly more, since by the time I got around to shoveling, it had packed itself down quite a bit.

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We did have a brief power outage, but I’m sure none of you noticed since it was in the wee hours of the morning and only lasted a couple of hours.

We’re all right here now, but my back will suffer for several days. Snow is heavy. Very heavy.

Server Room: Complete

Upon arrival back from our trip to Houston, it was good to arrive back at the house to see that our basement work was complete. The wall was done and painted, the wall trim installed, and the door put in place.

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It looks like it was always there. Here are some pictures of the inside:

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So, I’m pretty excited about the room. Tonight, I’ll be moving the servers into the room, so the site will be down for a bit.

More Home Improvements

This week, we’ll be modifying our basement. We’ll be walling in a nook to contain all my servers and networking equipment. It’s the latest phase of getting our basement set up for photography. This will allow us to move all the excess computer equipment out of the main basement area into a closed room. In this room will also be some shelving for storing other unsightly materials. Here is a pictures of the nook [after we moved all the servers away from it]:

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Previously, there was a desk [and then a table] holding printer, monitor, CD filing units on top and computer part holders and a server or two beneath it. It was quite messy.

Over the next few days, there may be some few outages as we move wiring and other things around to accommodate the new space.

Not that I’ve been posting anything recently… I know: I’m a slacker.

Even More Cleaning

Now that we’ve shredded most of the documents [after having to wait for the shredder to cool down between bouts] we’ve been working on streamlining our bookcases. I’ve been looking at the Kindle and will now likely buy one. That decision made, I’ve started to clean off my shelves of books that, if I read again, it will be digitally. Some I will not read again, but to know that they are available on the Kindle is enough for me to get rid of them.

Some I will keep never to sell, of course, but that is not what this post is about.

I have a couple of crates of books sitting beside me now: books to sell or otherwise get rid of. I am going to try Craigslist now.

Craigslist has become our friend lately. We’ve sold lots of stuff, including Laura’s old behemoth of a computer desk. That will definitely clear up some space in our basement for a photography studio.

And now, I’m off to type up some Craigslist posts.

Additional Media Center Woes

Things were looking up with the media center now that I got the cable card tuner and a new video card. It was looking great, that is, until the technician left. It seems that Cox has implemented Switched Digital Video on their digital cable network. That totally broke my media center. I can get a few channels, but not a lot of the ones I regularly watch. So I’m stuck. Either I go for Fios which doesn’t do SDV, or I wait until someone (ATI) puts out a patch for my tuner that supports SDV and get a tuning resolver that it will work with on the Cox network.

I have decided to wait, really, since we’re doing a number of things and we still have the old DVR to fall back on until things get more settled around here and we can really think about what we want to do with the cable.

One day, this will work.

One day…

Even More Fun With Windows Media Center

I mean it this time!

Previously, I had used our old [really only] desktop as a media center PC only to fall short of our goal. After you read that, you’ll find that I got to the point where everything was great – except for the digital encrypted channels… which was most of them. I had given up and just configured a virtual machine with an extender to play our music.

We almost never turn it on.

I had at one point subscribed to a discussion about media center and was still getting emails about it. The other day, I actually read a couple. What I read was liberating. Not in a metaphysical sense, but a technological one. In the previous post, you’ll note I discuss the fact that in order to get a CableCard tuner to work with a Windows Media Center PC, it needed to have special BIOS – and be blessed by the cable industry. While to some extent this is still true, some interesting things are happening.

First, new system boards are becoming available with the special setting enabled by default. That is great, since there was previously no way to buy special parts for those who wanted to build their own system or upgrade existing ones for lower costs. Secondly, there seems to be a “hack” out there, or more precisely a utility, which allows non-OCUR systems to show as compatible for CableCard tuners.

Guess which one I was leaning to?

Having already had a nice, capable system [4GB of RAM and 250GB HDD – possibly need more space, though] I was not really desirous of buying anything new. So, I took the old box, wiped it out and installed a fresh copy of Windows 7 RC1. Win7 is quite a bit better, I must say. Especially when it comes to Media Center. The TV Pack is included by default and it, while familiar, has a few more features. I then used a utility to check OCUR compliance: FAIL. Next, came the OCUR utility. I installed it and, Viola! PASS.

I finished building the system, including installing the Amazon Unbox player and the new beta version of the Hulu Desktop [quite cool, I might add] and customized it to be launched from inside the WMC GUI. It even uses the WMC remote control! That being done, I synchronized the music locally to the machine and took it upstairs. I hooked the old analog tuner into the computer and achieve low-def success.

Now that it’s working the way I want, the only thing left is for us to obtain a pair of CableCard tuners [I think Win7 Ultimate can handle up to 4] and cards and get them paired. I’m waiting on that because the tuners are still almost $300 a piece so that has to fit into my budget.

One thing is certain, though: the additional $40 or so per month I’m spending on cable boxes will go away once I go live with CableCards. I’ve even thought about cancelling cable. You can watch all you want on Hulu, so why do I need cable, right? Well, Laura says I can’t drop it yet and the Hulu shows aren’t in full HD and because they’re streaming tend to jump a little. So – not completely free of the cable company. Yet.

All I know for certain is that the saga will continue, and once I can save up enough for the tuners, we’ll be good to go… but…

I need to save up for a car too… decisions, decisions…