June 28, 2004

Computer toy or a TV toy? It's both!

the MediaMVP sittin' on top of the TV

We've been playing with the Media MVP for a few months, and now I've finally decided to write about it. What is it? hrm... well, it streams media files (like music, images and video) from your computer to your TV over a home network. How cool is that?

Here's a peek at the main screen.

I'll tell you up front that I'm a huge fan of this device. The Hauppauge Media MVP is just plain awesome. It has a feature set of a product several times it's price. Also, there is great development still going on with it. Hauppauge has provided software upgrades and other tools to extend the featureset. Woo!

Innanutshell: The MVP is a small device that connects to the back of your tv and your home network. You load some software onto your computer. Within minutes, you can stream mp3's, internet radio, video and view images.

Package Deal: When you open the box, you get the receiver, a stand for the receiver, a remote control, some cables, software cd, some cables and instructions.

Price: When I bought mine, I paid about 50 bonez from Circuit City. Retail price is somewhere around 90, but if you look, you too will be able to find it on sale.

Size: Pretty small. It's about the size of a portable cd player. Here it is compared to my universal standard of measurement, PEZ. For those who need a better comparison, here is a standard-sized CD.

Listening to music: Yep, it does that. I have tried many different mp3's recorded at different settings, and I haven't hit a snag yet. MVP will also play playlists and can also play full directories too.

Streaming Radio: This one is pretty nice. I've just started playing with this (new feature), but it seems to work okay. There are tons of streaming internet radio stations. I haven't gotten past loading NPR. Well, I guess that's really about the only station that I listen to anyway.

Video: Oh, my... but this does indeed works nicely. It's great for me, because I used to burn lots of stuff to DVD just to watch 'em. Now, I can skip the DVD step. I can view avi, mpg, wmv, divx and xvid encoded videos. The quality of the video is dependent on several different factors. The quality of the original file, the speed of your connection between the computer and the mvp and stuff like this will all affect the play. Some videos wouldn't play full screen, but those are rare. Your best bet is to stick with a standard format.

Viewing Images: No real problems here either. You can view images in a thumbnail mode, or full screen. And yes, there is a slideshow mode as well.

Fun for normal people: Yes. It's easy to set up, and it just works.

Fun for geeks: Um....yeah. First off, it's pretty hard to break this machine. The receiver runs a flavor of linux called busybox. The entire file structure is loaded from the host (or the fileserver) every time that the device is restarted. Not only is this smart, but it makes it pretty indestructable. If you mess it up, you just unplug it, and reload a safe version of the binaries.

Not that geeky? How about this... The display for the MVP is based heavily on HTML pages with Javascript for the heavy lifting. This makes the MVP pretty skinnable. I am not a wizard, but I managed to fully reskin my MVP in about two hours. The new look for the MVP is very simple and easy on the eyes.

Small Print: The small print stuff. If you don't have a fast computer to fileserve from, fuggetaboutit. When you are serving files, you are also going to eat up a fair amount of your home network's bandwidth. That's really all the small print stuff that I can think of.

Linkage: Want to learn more? I first heard about this from the linux-hacker.net bulletin board. Of course, this toy has a forum of it's own now. Check out the official product page for all of the specifications. On the right is the obligatory Amazon link.

Posted by Matty at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2004

Shiny Baubles - Ooh, yay!

A girl likes to have pretty things. Even while knitting. That's why there's "knitting jewelry" (stitch markers and row markers). A shiny bauble or more to have hanging about even during the most boring, garter-stitch drudgery.

Well, this crafty girl along with her gal pals Pamelalala, Petra and Kathy (see this? if y'all had websites, I could be spiffy and link them here) have gone and made their own.

I've made way too many for myself, but am a greedy with my preciouses. (Is it too late to make a Gollum reference?) I've made some as gifts and some for the heck of it - 'cause I liked the beads. It's addicting, I tell ya'. And it's not like knitting's not addictive enough, now I've got a beading habit to go with my fiber jones.

So here's a couple of pics o' knitting eye candy and perhaps a little instruction. I gotta get some knit on... like NOW!

First things first - you should know that I have more beads that I need or will ever need, but I want more - always. Here's a couple of pics of my beading in progress. I originally started making cute lil' seed bead animals and flowers. Then this 'sickness' came into my head and now I'm on stitch marker binge.

Some of the first ones I made were with the "girls" during a fun Crafturday (Saturday craft day). This pink set of three are my standbys, they're the stitch markers I usually go for while knittin'. They're perfectly balanced and not pointy parts to catch on the yarn.

When I need row markers, I typically pick up one of the red set. They, too, are light and roundy - easy to work with. But occasionally, I need something with a little bite to it. A row marker that's not afraid to show the knitting who's boss. Don't nobody say nuttin' bad to this little guy. What attitude! Ha!

But I'm not all sass n' vinegar. I've got a sweet side to my nature. (Just don't ask MattyBonez.) An' one of my favorite critters is the dragonfly. Cute, flitty, a bit more gumption to it than a butterfly, and not as bad a rap as a wasp. I've got a dragonfly tattoo and *want* to get another. ("Want" in this case is balanced against desire, location, and the pain factor. Perhaps; perhaps not. We'll see.) Here are two adorable dragonfly stitch markers that I made; the red one is a bead from Pamelalala and the blue/green one is ... Wha? You can't see the other one? Well, click on the pic to get a closer view!

Now might be a good time to take a little break, get some refreshments, and learn what the difference between row and stitch markers are. A row marker gets pinned or hooked onto the knitted fabric at a specific row and stays put. This makes it easier on the knitter when he/she needs to knit are large amount of rows. (I.e., it's easy to loose count of 100 rows of knitting, but if you place a marker every 20 rows the counting is much easier.) A row marker typically is a hook or clasp that conveniently hooks onto the strand of yarn. I prefer clasps because they don't come off too easily when I'm bandying about with my projects (re: toss it down in frustration or exhaustion).

A stitch marker, on the other hand, is made to "travel" with the knitting. These are made with hoops and need to have a bigger circumference than your needles. Stitch markers are used to mark a place in the knitting, usually where an increase or decrease is made. They're worked up with the knitting, slipping from one needle to the other, so that place is always where the marker is no matter what row you're on. These four stitch markers were made with hoops intended as wine glass charms, but should work with my size US #15 needles. Each has an inspirational word that makes me feel all warm & fuzzy inside.

Now to just finish up. Here's a quick n' dirty pix of a bunch of stitch markers that I made. This has been a long article to write, so I'd imagine it's pretty tough to read. To make it easier, I've linked a pix to their descriptives so if you wanna see them you gotta work a little. No one said that reading blogs was easy!

I made a set of four markers for crochet. They're a gift for a friend and once you see them you'll understand (or perhaps not). I'm not certain how well they'll work for crochet, but I can make changes if they're desired.

A single sunflower row marker. It's pretty long and dangly, but it's a large enough hook that it might be feasible as a stitch marker, too. I made twin punk stitch markers. These, imho, rock! Their black & white print w/ hot pink accents gets me all hot n' bothered for the 80's ... again. These heart stitch markers turned out so pretty that I'm rethinking them as charms on a necklace. Whatd'ya think?

And finally, the beaded markers I made for fireballhead. They were a bit of lagniappe to sweeten the pot of our PEZ-4-Yarn trade. Their are two row markers and three stitch markers of varying sizes.

So that's my story. You want more? Give me time, my friend. Money and time.

Posted by Nanc at 12:36 PM | Comments (9)

June 17, 2004

Avast Ye!

Shiver me Timbers!

Ahoy! With me learnin' intarsia from Tricot, I's gots me sea legs about me. I were in need of a ship warming gift for me bucko, Stina. So's I goes on account and gets me this here chart for the Jolly Roger.

I knitted a dishcloth smartly, an' no finer a rag thar be! Aye, the poop deck is a bit ravenged from t' twistin' yarns, but t' gunwalls are knit up in a beauty o' seed stitch.

Now I'll be takin' a caulk while me ship's careened and then I gets me en route again. No need for flashin' the black spot or threatenin' of Davy Jones' locker. Come about, if'n ye dare, and see what oth'r treasures I claim.

Aye, if'n ye be a landlubber, perhaps ye might try your lot here before ye gets hurt. For there'll be no quarter given to those that swing the lead.

Posted by Nanc at 10:03 AM | Comments (3)

June 14, 2004


Progress for sure.

Yesterday at Stitch 'N Bitch, Chris and I knitted on and compared our Tricots. Chris started Tricot on the true tricotalong date: May 1. And you can see the difference! (She's allowed to taunt me with "My Tricot's bigger than yours!")

But I am getting there; slowly/surely. I've worked the decreases, increases, and am starting the armhole shaping. And to avoid too much mundanity (yeah- it's a word), I think I'll work a sleeve up before I start on the front.

Posted by Nanc at 01:30 PM | Comments (1)

June 12, 2004


I am going to try to keep a record of my progress on Tricot. Pix, blog entries, the whole shebang. If I work on it; I'll record it.

Or at least that's my plan now.

So here we are at the beginning. I've swatched and made gauge, and I've started knitting up the back. I'm using Lion Brand® Cotton Ease in Blueberry (main color) and Pineapple (the stripes). The needles are simply Susan Bates (aluminum) circs in sizes US #6 and #8.

The pattern only calls for three rows of 2x2 ribbing, but I'd like a little more length, thank you. So I add some more rows to that and have worked the stockinette stitch up to the decreases (and then stopped for the night).

Look for more to come... soon!


Per request of a few, let me define "tricot" and give you a glimpse of what the finished product will (hopefully) look like. tri·cot n. A plain, warp-knitted cloth of any of various yarns. French, from tricoter, to knit.

The description at MagKnits calls it 'a sporty jersey-style sweater for the stylish soccer mom' and the pix can be seen here.

So does that give y'all a better idea of it? And for any lingering questions or curiosity, you can check out the tricotalong site. Enjoy!

Posted by Nanc at 11:40 AM

June 11, 2004

Tasty Treat or Corporate Shill?

Nanc and I recently bought some Cracker Jack © snacks at the grocery. There were four boxes, and they were all pretty tasty.

How did they screw it up? Continue on, gentle reader.

They messed up the prize!!

To me, the "Prize Inside" is synonymous with Cracker Jack. Survey says that over 90% of the population think just like me. (The other ten percent is made up by people that think of baseball, carmel-coated popcorn and peanuts, and herring.)

When I was younger, I remember getting cheaply-made metal trinkets, cardboard tchotchkes and every kind of paper product imaginable. The folks that worked in research over there were amazing. If it was small and could be made out of paper, they could do it.

Remember that Cracker Jack pioneered the concept of the temporary tattoo. Sure, they didn't exactly perfect it -you had to use your imagination to see an anchor in the wet, grey blob on your arm - but they sure paved the way. There were also stickers, decoders, action pictures, and umm... other rectangular pieces of cardboard.

Granted, I haven't been a regular consumer, and this is the first time that I have had any 'jacks in at least 10 years. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.

After ripping open the wrapper on the "Prize", I was left in stunned silence. I felt like I had slapped in the face by my previously faithful snack. Why? because my prize was a Big Dog brand sticker. For those not in the know, Big Dog is a brand of clothing. (Think low-rent Izod). They have their dog logo on sportswear, polo-styled shirts, boxers, etc.

It gets worse. One the front, the sticker suggested that I should collect all ten designs. Yep, they made ten different stickers that incorporated the Big Dog logo.

Guess what the prize was in each of the four boxes? Yep, four Big Dog stickers. I was well on my way to having the complete set, but I feel empty inside. I double checked my box of Cracker Jack. No where on the outside did the box tell me "Cracker Jack is brought to you by the number 37 and Big Dog Sportswear."

My vitriole and indignation drove me to the Cracker Jack website it appeared that they too were out of ideas. There was a contest running to "design a cracker jack prize." They will gladly accept your idea, providing that you sign away all rights to it.

Maybe in return they will give you a full set of all ten collectible stickers. All you have to do then is put those babies in your safety deposit box and wait. Oh, yeah.

Posted by Matty at 12:56 PM | Comments (1)

June 09, 2004

Where has all the knitting gone?

Okay, so it's been a while since I've posted anything knitting related. I have been knitting though, and getting quite a few Finished Objects (FO). I've just been too lazy to take pix or post. But I'm here to take back my knitting blog!

Stand back, world!

First FO? Sweaters, hats and booties for the Brockschmidt twins (born 4/15/04). It's two great sets in blues (for da' boyz) with sports buttons. (Footballs on the indigo sweater and baseballs on the sky blue sweater.) Unfortunately, I believe that I missed the grace period that they could wear these. So I had better start knitting up some new sets, perhaps in 9-12 mo. sizes. Of course, I'll have no problem finding lil' bodies for these sets, as there's another set of twin boys due this year!

The yarn is katia® diana and the patterns are as follows:

My next project was a learning experience - felting! Felting, or fulling, is when you take a wool item and purposefully ruin, er... shrink it in hot water to make a solid and sturdy fabric.

Ooh - it looks so big before felting! (Or does it?)

This was quite exciting and fun. The pattern is the Mia Mini-Bag from HelloKnitty.com and a few of us from DFW SnB are making it.

It only takes one ball of bulky wool; Rowan® Big Wool is the suggested fiber and who am I to fight it. I picked up a great, grapey color called Wild Berry. But I couldn't leave well enough alone. I decided to add a bit of additional color and throw some pink stripes in the mix. I got a ball of Online Linie® 60 Tondo in pink. The bonus? It was on sale 50% off!

So a knittin' I went. I was able to complete the body of the purse in just a few hours (would've been less, except I enjoy the boob-tube). The strap worked up even quicker and it was all together before I could say... well, something clever, I'm sure.

In this pic, the bag is drying and shaping on a plastic-covered paperback. But no more work now - the sign sez drink!

So then, the felting excitement could start. The purse went into a pillow case and into the washer! In a pair of jeans went! A bit o' dish detergent, some hot water, and we're ready for the show! Okay, it might be a bit of common sense, but this really caught me off guard. - That water is hot! Yikes.

But the purse shrunk, just like they said. It's a tiny little thing. In fact, we had difficulty searching the house for a book that would fit it. (Big? Yeah, we got big books a plenty. But not so much on the smaller, paperbacks.) The darker Rowan fulled better than the Online Linie; you can still make out the stitches in the pink.

The bag turned out so cute and tiny, but I don't really need much. It fits my wallet, cell phone, chap stick, keys and mints. Ta-da!

Okay, up next is the Reverse Bloom Flower Washcloth. (Sheesh. It takes longer to type the name out than it does to knit it up!)

This is knit up using Crystal Palace® Cotton Chenille and dpns. It's both pretty easy (petals) and kinda frustrating (center). So I recommend this pattern (which I had in my Winter 2003 Interweave Knits), but be prepared for the battle.

The flower washcloth (orange) is pictured with a soap sack. This is a pattern that I've been enjoying for a while now. It works up quick and those that use bar soap like it. This is my third soap sack (come on - it's just fun to say!), and I made a bit of a change to this one. It's knitted in kitchen cotton's natural color with a blue stripe. I also crocheted (wha?!) a simple drawstring in the blue. These are gifts for my folks... just because.

When I went to the docs for my vaccinations (for my upcoming trip to Honduras), I needed a simple project to work on. So I grabbed a pair of circs and some cotton yarn and made these booties. Note: the color is very different in real life - there are yellow stripes that didn't show up in the foto at all.

They're larger than most I've been working on (because I didn't check the needle size I picked up), but should do well for an older baby. It's the same pattern I used for the twins' sets as well as for my soon-to-arrive cousin-baby. I didn't get a pic of the botties and hat I made for baby Jackson, but it was with the Popsicle blue Lion Brand® Cotton Ease. Perhaps I'll get a foto of the man himself wearing them? (One can only hope... and drive down, dress the baby, and take a pic.)

And finally... Tricot swatch!

Yeah, this has been a long time coming and I've run into a variety of problems and procrastinations, but I've started. The Tricotalong started May 1, but not for Nancy.

I won't go into all the woes and worries that got me to this point, but I will state that Michigan colors were NOT my first choice! But I think it looks pretty good, and the intarsia wasn't as troubling as I expected. Now I just need to sit down and knit! Let's see if I can catch up (ha!).

phew. That was a lot. I think I've learned my lesson. Knit -> blog. Knit -> blog. Not to mention the other topics covered at TAGF! And finally for those of you patient enough to read this whole thing (or bored, who knows?), I give you Fashionista Bucky! Doesn't he look marvelous, dah-ling.

Posted by Nanc at 08:28 AM | Comments (2)

June 08, 2004

The more the merrier

Last night, Matty and I got a few more fishies for our aquarium. We were looking for fish that will swim in the top and/or upper-middle sections of the tank. They also had to be pretty hardy and not aggressive.

Stop by and see if you can spot the new-comers.

We picked up four Bleeding Heart Tetras, which are a nice silvery-beige with a red marking on their sides and red on the fins. Tetras are our usual stand-by. They're hardy and usually stay in groups while they swim, so they make a nice visual in the tank.

We also picked up three silver Hatchet fish. We've had a few of these before and they lasted a decent amount of time (cause of deaths unknown). The hatchets typically stay swimming at the top and they have a unique look to them. Their little pectoral fins are angled up and look like wings. And they have a "belly" that drops down from their otherwise straight body and looks like a hatchet or a pelican's beak pouch.

We've tried a few different methods for introducing new fish into our aquarium, but have found a tried and true way for us. We used to have a small, hospital/waiting room tank, but it became more work to keep it going and their seemed to be very little benefits.

If possible, we try to schedule a tank cleaning to coincide with the introduction of the new fish. This breaks up any territories the current fish may have, and in all the excitement of the cleaning, no one's paying attention to the new guys. If we can't get a cleaning done, we give some snacks to the fish, which again takes their minds off the newbies. (Silly fish, so easily distracted.)

We float the bags of new fish on the top of the aquarium for 20-30 minutes, which acclimates the fish to the water temp in the tank. Then over the next half an hour, we add about 1/2 c. of aquarium water to the bagged fish every 10 minutes. This acclimates the fish to the chemical make up of our tank.

After the third installment and waiting period, we net the fish and move them into the aquarium. And dump their water out! Don't add the water from the bags to your tank - their could be all kinds of ick and sick that you don't want your fish to get.

And then the fun part... watching all the activity and interactions of the fish. Ahh, that's the life.

Posted by Nanc at 09:48 AM

June 04, 2004

I miss the music

Okay, to most my next comment is going to seem crazy, but hear me out. (Click on the image ONLY if you want to see the real thing. Wussies, do not click.)

I miss the cicadas.

Back home (Ohio), they're going through the emergence of the 17-year cicada. We don't seem to have cicadas in Texas (at least not in Dallas). And I am truly missing this experience.

I have fond memories of cicadas; collecting the shells like great treasures as a toddler (kept in a cigar box for my friend), comically trying to walk/ride a bike/drive through throngs of cicadas, and the amazing site of our backyard after the last cycle of 17-yearers (it looked like an aeration treatment gone awry).

It's too quiet here in Texas. Sure, we have nasty, huge roach-like things, plenty of June bugs, and other nasty creepy-crawlers. But no singing cicadas. No fireflies, either. Shame 'bout those, too.

So no, I'm not crazy. Just sentimental.

Posted by Nanc at 04:36 PM | Comments (2)