Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Happy 6th+ Year Anniversary to Geauga Lake Being Closed – NOT! – A Revitalization Idea!

I just saw that it has been 6+ years since Geauga Lake in Northeast Ohio closed out of nowhere on the last day of the season!   Like everyone else that grew up in Northeast Ohio, this was devastating to me. This is part of where we grew up, we had season tickets, we went there every weekend as teenagers.  Hundreds if not thousands of memories were made.  In reality, I always knew growing up that this could happen to an amusement park, just never though it would be my amusement park!  I always had a fascination for Euclid Beach Park and it’s closure.  I read many books, but still could never understand why a park would close.  The fun, the memories, the screams, the laughter, why, how, could it happen?  As I became older and wiser, I realized, it all comes down to MONEY.

Money is probably what has caused the land to sit empty for 6 years.  Money is why no one wants to buy the land.  Money is why no one can figure out what to do with The Big Dipper.  Honestly, it’s been a recession, who wants it?  I’m not here to disrespect Cedar Fair or talk about what happened.  I’m here to present my proposal for the land.  I heard today that a trustee thought a medical campus would be a good idea for the land.  I laughed.  Why does the Cleveland area need another hospital complex?

The best thing moving forward is to create an 1887 Geauga Lake “Pre-amusement park era” mixed with a modern use mixed residential and commercial property.  I present to you the new Geauga Lake:

Screen shot of my design for Geauga Lake.

Screen shot of my design for Geauga Lake.

 

This Google Maps page, “An Idea for the Geauga Lake Property” , pretty much explains all of my ideas if you hover over all of them, but I will go over the basics in a list here:

  • The Yellow Areas are public spaces that provide entertainment for anyone entering the park, these include rides and the beach.  The whole park would be open to the public, with pay for use on the rides and attractions. The beach would be free, with revenue coming in from concessions, drinks, non power boat rental and umbrella/chair rental!  The new attractions would be on the smaller scale and could include go-karts, mini-golf, batting cages and kids rides.  All of the attractions would use a smartphone app for payment and services.
  • The Orange Area is designated to The Big Dipper, the main attraction and saving it!
  • The Green Areas are all green space that divide commercial areas from residential areas or just provide a nice area for park space.
  • The Blue Areas are all commercial areas for restaurants, shopping and nightlife.  They also include a marina, event center and hotel!
  • The Maroon areas are all for upscale condos, apartments, town homes and possibly single family housing.  The idea is they will be close enough to walk to all of the entertainment options (and possibly work) in the blue areas, but far enough away that noise will not be a huge concern.  A shuttle/trolley service could be designed to easily move people around the new Geauga Lake.

 

IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

  • I don’t know anything.  I have not done any cost analysis, acre analysis, city/township border analysis, etc.  I assume it’s in the billions of dollars to complete.   It sounds like a fun place to live; if it gets built, I will live there.
  • This is just an idea I came up with in my spare time.  I don’t have any affiliation with Aurora, OH or Bainbridge Township, OH.  I just think it’s the best idea I have heard.  Let’s be honest, the park is not going to ever go back to it’s former glory days and this seems like a good plan to make it a fun place to live and/or visit.  Let’s bring back the 1887 days?
  • I currently live out of state and have no idea if this kind of mixed use development would work where Geauga Lake it located.  I don’t even really know or understand what all that big box shopping is around it.
  • This design is conceptual and is created by Dan Murry – http://dmurry.com  – It may not be used or reproduced without written permission from author.

 

 

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31

05 2014

Open Source Movie Editing Software

Screen Shot of Avidemux

The goal of this project is to figure out how to take multiple  DVD video files (*.VOB) from a Sony Handy Cam and compile them all into one video with various transitions, effects and title screens.  The program I use does not have to be anything fancy, but should have the basics mentioned above.  I am by no means an expert in this subject, but I have previously used Adobe Premiere Pro with digital video (DV), capturing the video over Firewire.  I am not able to use this same method as the Sony Handy Cam I am currently using records to a mini DVD.   I also no longer have legal access to Adobe Premiere Pro.

The first software package I tried was VirtualDub, but I got the following error when trying to open the VOB file;  “MPEG Import Filter: invalid pack at position 3: marker bit not set; possibly MPEG-2 stream.”  Okay, so this tells me I need to convert the video file before editing it with this program.  After further investigation, it does not appear that VirtualDub is going to allow me to do transitions and title screens.  It is time to search for another open source/free program.

The List of free and open source software packages on Wikipedia seems like a good place to start.  The first one on the list, Avidemux is able to convert my DVD based files into various file types (AVI, DVD compatible MPEG files, MP4, ASF, etc) , but still does not provide transitions or title screens.  It also provides simple cutting, encoding and various filters, but not quite what I need.

None of the other programs on the Wikipedia list seem to fit my needs.  However, it does seem that there are few awesome video editors for Linux/Unix platform.  I am unable to use any of these as I am limited to Windows XP.  I have come to the conclusion that a good open source alternative to Adobe Premiere or Final Cut for Windows does not exist right now.  Does anyone else know of one?

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27

01 2010

Circuit City from Good to Great to Gone

Circuit City Closed

Circuit City Closed

It is a sad day to see Circuit City finally close their doors.  There was a small hope that they could close a few stores, make well with their creditors, and continue doing business after filing Chapter 11 last year.  The problem is the chances of this happening are next to none.  In fact, this has never happened with a big box electronics retailer.

After all, who would loan money to a failing business?  Who would allow products to be sold on credit and hope that the company would be able to pay their bills next month?  A company with a great status and credit rating is able to have all of this.  In fact, they were proclaimed in 2001as a great company by Jim Collins in his book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t.” They apparently could not be great forever.

“The study began with a field of 1,435 companies and emerged with a list of 11 good-to-great companies: Abbott Laboratories, Circuit City, Fannie Mae, Gillette Co., Kimberly-Clark Corp., the Kroger Co., Nucor Corp., Philip Morris Cos. Inc., Pitney Bowes Inc., Walgreens, and Wells Fargo.”  The book stresses the need for great companies to have great people to propel it forward and all of the previous companies had this at the time of publishing.  It is deemed the flywheel effect – as long as great people are continuously propelling the wheel forward it will not completely stall.  The momentum from the wheel moving forward drives innovation, development, sales and eventually profit.

Most people would agree that the majority of the problems started occurring when Phil Schoonover took over as CEO on March 1st, 2006.  Exactly a year later, in March 2007 he decided to layoff 3,400 of its highest paid sales people.  The exact thing that Jim Collins said makes a great company he just got rid of because they were “too expensive”. The good sales people were at the front of the wheel, pushing the product out the door and when that slowed so did everything else behind it. This effectively slowed the motion of the flywheel and less than a two years later it came to a complete stop.   Did Phil Schoonover not read this book or even hear about it?  Did he not realize that people mainly shopped at Circuit City for the customer service and knowledgeable sales staff?

Probably not.  After all, what is personal in your face customer service in a big box retailer anymore?  It is one of the only things that they have above online retailers.  The other thing that they have is the physical product on display.  They have the ability for the consumer to inspect, hold, try out and instantly take home the product.  They need to exaggerate this, have their best salesmen trying to convince you to purchase and make the shopping experience phenomenal.  If not, why not go home, purchase the product for cheaper online and wait 3-5 days for it to arrive?

Even with the the liquidation sales at the remaining Circuit City stores, do not expect to find an amazing deal.  This was noticed at their first round of closing during the end of last year.  It was typical to find an item marked up to Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) or higher and then the discount taken from that.  This means that the same item whether laptop, flat panel TV, or speakers could usually be found at a competing big box retailer for significantly cheaper.  It was always cheaper through an online retailer. The only time that a deal might be found is in the last week or two of the liquidation sale when the percentages are 40-50% off, but by then not much worthwhile could be had.

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02

02 2009

Saving Money with a Programmable Thermostat

Yesterday, I installed a Honeywell programmable thermostat to automatically regulate the temperature in my house. It will work well as my schedule is pretty typical for the work week. It was relatively easy and only involved disconnecting the old thermostat and reconnecting 4 wires.  Fortunately, all of the wires were correctly labeled Yellow, White, Red, and Green so it made installation a breeze!  Follow the instructions that are included with your unit.

Now, I need to work out the details as far as the programming.  Here are the factory defaults for the work week.

Winter:

  • 6:00 AM – 70° F
  • 8:00 AM – 62° F
  • 6:00 PM – 70° F
  • 10:00 PM – 62° F
Summer:

  • 6:00 AM – 78° F
  • 8:00 AM – 85° F
  • 6:00 PM – 78° F
  • 10:00 PM – 82° F

Now, I won’t be talking about the summer settings as I am not able to figure those out at the moment.  I tried the default settings for this morning and it seemed like the furnace was running the whole two hours to try to get the house back up to 70° F.  This can’t be good.  I never kept the house this warm with the old thermostat. So here’s my first attempt at a modified schedule.  I’ll update this post after I let it run through a bit.

Winter:

  • 6:00 AM – 66° F – I’ll keep it a bit warmer for waking up in the morning.
  • 8:00 AM – 60° F – This seems like the minimum I should go for right now.
  • 6:00 PM – 65° F – I used to keep it at 65° whenever we were home with the old one.
  • 11:00 PM – 62° F – Turning the heat down at night will be new to me to help save money.

I do not feel like our house is well insulated, so I wanted to keep the temperature swings a bit less to prevent the furnace from running for hours to heat the house back up to a reasonable temperature.  I have also seen other sites recommend turning it back 10-15 degrees, but I have tropical fish tanks in the house so I do not feel comfortable going much lower than 60°.  The fish tank heaters will only compensate 15-20 degrees of ambient temperature.  The fish like to be at least 75°.

Here are two other websites with more information on using a programmable thermostat.

1/21/2009 Update:  The temperature settings seem to be working well.  I just hope it ends up lowering my gas bill!

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14

01 2009

Computer Upgrades < $100

I started researching to upgrade my computer last March and then I got distracted by outside summertime fun.  It’s actually pretty old for today’s standards (AMD Athlon 64 3200+) but I cannot justify spending the money to build a completely new system right now.  I figured I would just throw a bit more life into it with a new video card, more RAM and probably a clean install of XP 32bit or Vista.  I will definitely be staying away from XP 64bit as barely any hardware (Zune, Digital Camera, etc) I own works with it!

Sapphire HD 3870 - Contents in Box - Picture from newegg.com

The long term plan is to buy a laptop and then convert the desktop into a media center and file server for the living room.  However, I still need to buy a HDTV for this to really be worth my time.  Deciding what video card to purchase was a very challenging decision as many brands and options currently exist.  At first I was only looking at fan-less video cards, then it was the newer line of the ATI HD cards.  In the end I read these articles Can Your Old Athlon 64 Still Game? and Best Cards for the Money – Oct ’08 from Tom’s Hardware Guide and decided on the ATI HD 3870 card.  This was mainly due to the 55nm process, less power consumption, supposed ability to play Blu-ray without being CPU intensive and finally it was a good price on Newegg.  The HD 4850 was also researched as an option, but would be overkill for my processor and my gaming needs.  (My favorite game is Sim City 4, although I plan on trying out some more advanced first person shooters when I get the new video card)  I’ll run some benchmarks after I get up and running.

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07

11 2008

XOHM WiMax in Baltimore

Sprint’s next generation (4G) network XOHM WiMax Broadband network claims they are set out to revolutionize the way we connect by allowing the same kind of connection at home and on the go.  I don’t believe they are too far off from this claim.  However, I would hold out on the mobile devices until the 3G and 4G devices are available so it will be possible to connect in other cities where XOHM is not available yet, from the Press Release:

Sprint will be the first and only wireless carrier to launch a dual-mode 3G – 4G access device expected later in the fourth quarter. This device will extend Sprint’s mobile broadband leadership by offering the power of the NOW network — the largest 3G data network in the U.S. — with the fastest data speeds among all national carriers available on this new 4G network in Baltimore and in future markets.

I recently saw the XOHM kiosk’s at the Fells Point Fun Festival in Baltimore and briefly played with the Nokia 810 connected to the WiMax network.  It worked as expected and browsed to all the pages I went to with out delay.  I wish I could justify the cost for one of the Nokia 810s.  I overheard one of the guys working the stand talking about the speed tests they had been trying on the laptops all day.  From what I heard he said some have been slower than advertised and some have been decently faster than the stated, “We define High Performance level as average 2 – 4 Mbps download speed and 0.5 – 1.5 Mbps upload speed.”

I did not really think about it being a possibility of using this service until I received my recent cable bill and saw my promotional offer of $33/month for a year from Comcast has expired.  It has been raised to $42.95/month.  This is on the border of being too much to pay for internet, even with an advertised 6Mbps+ down.  (I’ve actually been averaging 10Mbps with DSL Reports speed tests.)  XOHM is offering a special until 12/31/2008 for $50/month for 2 devices for the lifetime of the account.  Baltimore, MD XOHM CoverageThis means that it is possible to get a wireless modem to plug into an existing wireless network and an express or usb card for a laptop connection for $50/month!  The individual options are not as good of a deal at $25/month for 6 months and $35/month thereafter for the Home connection.  While, the mobile option by itself is $30/month for 6 months and then $45/month afterward.

I could justify the $7.05 more a month to have a mobile broadband card to use in Baltimore (soon to be in more cities and eventually with 3G networks). The coverage area is currently strong where I live, but does not exist where I work.  I would imagine I could use the mobile broadband card at home and get 2 – 4 Mbps down and 0.5 – 1.5 Mbps up on the laptop  and on the modem connected to the network.  Definitely an intriguing offer to think about.

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08

10 2008

Zune 8gb/16g vs. iPod Nano 4G

The first thoughts after seeing the new commercials for the iPod nano was that it looked extremely similar to the Zune 4gb/8gb/16gb that has been out since before Christmas 2007.  The Zune Scene forums does a really nice comparison.  First similarity in form factor is they do have the same overall dimensions.  The only really noticeable difference is the nano has a 2.0″ screen while the Zune has a 1.8″ screen.  The resolutions are the same at 320 x 240 so there should not be too much of a difference in quality.  The new nano has an accelerometer which allows it to sense orientation and play movies in the landscape mode.  This is something that the Zune has done from the start with all videos defaulting to landscape without an accelerometer to know its orientation.  It allows the width of the screen to be used while watching videos.  Although at 2.0″ inches it is still a bit small to really watch videos on.  It just allows the nano to have a more “normal” form factor instead of the previous “fat” one that was  wider than tall.

Although, I am bias to the Zune as I have hands on experience with the 8gb and 30gb I feel it is a better product technology wise as it has wifi and an fm radio built in.  This allows flagging and purchase of songs heard on the radio over a wifi connection along with syncing to a music collection.  Microsoft has also upgraded all previous Zune’s to the newest firmware, which is a huge plus for my 30gb Zune.  I do feel Apple used the Zune 4gb/8gb/16gb as a model for the 4th generation nano based on the landscape video viewing mode and similar form factor.  What are your takes?

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01

10 2008