Thursday, January 27, 2005

Exact Mouse -- exactly what I needed

I've been having trouble with my editing software and neither my
Vegas discussion group or the s/w maker (Sony) could help me with
it, although someone from the droup gave me a workaround...fairly
kludge-y but a workaround nonetheless.

The problem: I would mouseover the top right or left corner of a
video (or audio) clip on the editing timeline and the little "fader"
icon would appear. I would click and drag...but the clip would trim
instead of absolutely would not adjust the opacity of the
clip to fade it in or out.

I use a lot of fades, so this was a huge hassle. Other stuff with the
mouse didn't work as well, same type of thing...trying to click and
drag something in close quarters, as though the mouse couldn't
"read" where it was, things like moving the opacity line, the audio
volume level, or the video velocity level.

This is a big headache for me. As usual, I'm in the middle of
editing a project.

So I did a bunch of stuff. I upgraded to the higher quality cirque
glidepoint ($79) touchscreen mouse -- no result...I still couldn't
click and drag. So I ordered a 2000 dpi precision mouse and
mousepad ($100) that is on its way now.

A couple of days ago, I downloaded a piece of $20 software - Exact
Mouse. Actually, it has a couple of very nice functions like a clickable
x/y grid that lets me check on whether things are aligned in a
document. Very useful for someone who cuts and pastes as much
as I do. Also 3 "load layout" memory buttons, which is quite handy

Mirabile dictu! the mouse started functioning perfectly in Vegas.
Sure glad I spent that c-note on a precision mouse...but maybe I'll
end up using it for something.

In the meantime, I'm fading in and out like a real editor...Keeping
my eyes on the road, my hands on the wheel, and my brain in gear.

Happy highways, Roadette


Friday, January 21, 2005

Pharos GPS

So a few years ago I bought this Ipaq PDA and it never really worked for anything. It was heavy, it didn't handle handwriting well, and the battery life was hopelessly short. And when it lost power, it deleted all the added software, so I never wanted to use it.

I saw people taking notes with an external keyboard at shows and expos, but I was always leery of losing everything. Nor would I trust phone numbers and addresses on it. It sat in a drawer for a couple of years.

Then I had it upgraded for a bunch more money....more memory, bigger battery, faster chip. I still didn't like it. I still didn't use it for anything. It sat on the charger for a few months.

Then last November I was in Fry's in Las Vegas...serendipitously located on the way to my rented condo. I saw the Pharos GPS Compact Flash unit and went, "Oh, yeah!"And it worked.
Beautifully. No more Thomas Guide or sloppy maps.

Just specify the origin and the destination, say "Go", stick the thing in the Prius' coffee cup holder and --voila! the route appears. Not only is there a map and text directions, a woman's voice speaks up to give you verbal directions if you enable it."In 200 yards, turn left," she will say.

Everything goes swimmingly -- until you make a mistake. Then the voice takes on the properties of a really mean stepmom who is planning to inject something nasty into your food because she hates you as much as you hate her. "You are off-route, you are off-route, you are off-route," she keeps repeating. "Root," she says. There is no training software to let me teach her to say "rout." No way to take that particular phrase out of her vocabulary, or to tell her to say it once and then shut up.

Oh well, it's small price to pay for finally finding a use for that previously worthless (and expensive) Ipaq.

I went to New York for New Year's Eve. (Yes, it was fun.) I left the Ipaq charging. When I got back, the GPS unit didn't work. The software was good, the unit's spectral blue light was on, but it wouldn't lock onto a satellite. I did the the s/w, changed the comm joy.

So a couple of days ago I got around to calling up Pharos GPS tech support. The help desk guy took me through the troubleshooting paces -- to no avail. Nevertheless, I had the feeling he really thought I had made some kind of dopey newbie blunder, like not seating the unit in the CF slot properly or not making sure the unit was securely in the CF jacket.He gave me a choice of taking it back to Fry's and exchanging it or bringing it to the Pharos labs.The company is located about the same distance to me Fry's and I was curious about Pharos.

So today, I took it to the labs. It's a nearly anonymous building in a nearly anonymous business park that isn't even in my six-year old Thomas Guide. I found it anyway.The tech support guy, Josh, met me right on time. He sneaker-netted the CF unit over to the lab and zoomed right back within ten minutes."Yep, it's dead," he announced. "We've swapped it out for a new one."

'Told you so,' I thought.

As it turns out, Pharos did very well by me. The new unit locks onto the satellite much faster than the old one ever did. And the real-time destination update is working better too. For example, the unit thinks I should turn from Wilshire to San Vicente onto Barrington to get to my apartment. But I have a shortcut that lets me avoid the c-f (not compact flash) at the light at San Vicente and Barrington. Instead, I go straight on Federal and curve on Montana, then take a right onto Barrington. Stepmom starts nagging right away. As soon as I make the right, though, the satellite reports it to the unit and it shuts her down.

I have two large, comfortable armchairs in my living room. They have a certain character, a solid presence, so I have named them: The orange one is the "Chair of Self Congratulation," and the yellow one is the "Chair of Excellence."

Ahhhhh! It is a wonderful feeling when things work, especially when they are technologically complex, gadgetologically cool, and not entirely necessary. I've decided to sit for awhile in the "Chair of Excellence" in honor of Pharos' (and Josh's and the lab's) efficient and admirable customer service.

A good day.



Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Roadkill: Requiem for a Ragdoll

Two weeks ago, I noticed that my ragdoll cat, Willow, hadn't been eating for a couple of days. And she wasn't sleeping by my pillow either. I took her to the vet where she had a physical exam and blood and urine tests -- a two hour visit. The vet ran the tests herself and said she couldn't find anything. Willow didn't have a fever, stomach pain, or heart murmur. Her urine was a bit concentrated, consistent with not eating. The doc gave me an appetite stimulant and some yummy food and sent us home.

All afternoon Willow became more and more listless. Finally I called Dr. Kitchen and said I wasn't sure--but I was very afraid that Willow was dying. The doctor told me to bring her right away.

I'm less than 5 miles from the vet but the afternoon drive time traffic was horrendous. Willow died as I drove her to the vet. I just sobbed, stuck in traffic for a half an hour with my probably dead poor girlcat. I couldn't tell if she was dead. She was limp; was she merely unconscious?
Was the pulse I felt in my fingertips hers...or mine? After 20 minutes or so, the pads on her paws seemed cooler.

Definitely dead, I thought. I got my camera and video taped her. Of course, I arranged her carefully on the seat so she had a composed dignity in death. I pushed down her eyelids...they wouldn't stay down. I screamed. I sobbed. I coughed. And I drove like a madwoman so I could get out of that damned car. Willow didn't care.

I hate it when stuff like this happens. Would I have liked it more if she died a lingering death of cancer? Not really. But I still hate the sting and shock of sudden death. Wilbur, my other cat, keeps looking around for Willow, even though I've explained it all to him a couple of times.

I've been looking for another cat to companion Wilbur. No luck so far.

So many of the rescued cats seem horribly damaged. The breeder cats seem horribly expensive. None of them seems like they can take the place of Willow.

There's a myth that no one is indispensible. As far as function goes, that may be true. But beyond function, in the realm of the heart, I think people (and cats) really are indispensible. Other friends, lovers, partners, mentors, and pets may move in occupy their own space in my interior pantheon, but they never really fill the niche of the one who is gone.

Bye Willow. You were a good traveller with a sunny disposition and a big heart.