Total Eclipse of the Moon

Posted on February 20th, 2008 in Life,Vancouver by andrija

Despite looking like writeoff even by 18:00, by 19:30 the sky was mostly entirely clear! If I haven`t looked through the window, I wouldn`t have even realized it. From my apartment nothing was visible but when we got out of the building we were able to see it immediately. What luck! The total eclipse of the moon was very visible most of the time even though there were some clouds occasionally covering it. I managed to take a few pictures with a tripod but it looked nicer through binoculars.

High Definition Format War is Officially Over – HD-DVD is Dead

Posted on February 19th, 2008 in Hardware & Software by andrija

As the title says.  Toshiba stops manufacturing equipment, and finally it’s official.  Blu Ray wins.  Now I can hope for some fire sales of HD-DVD movies.  I don’t have high hopes – after all, large scale UMD fire sales didn’t really happen either though eventually there were a few cheap movies to be bought.  Although UMD is not officially dead, I suppose.

Random Pictures from Vancouver, last Fall

Posted on February 18th, 2008 in Life,Vancouver by andrija

I took these pictures last fall… The first one is a nice combination of fall colours in front of Joyce station.

The second is the same thing. Have to decide which one to keep as official.

The next one is sunset at False Creek, at Science world (and no, I won`t be calling it Telus World of Science, ever).

Next one is again the same thing, but with more view of many cranes where the Olympic village for the 2010 Olympics is being built. I voted against, just so we`re in the clear.

And we have another picture in that area, as I was walking towards Best Buy. It was deep into fall and I was foolish enough to leave house way too late and too thinly dressed. Instead of sun I got sunset and then freezing as I was walking too much. This scene looked much better in real life.

Back to my apartment, here’s the view from my window on one weekend afternoon in early October (8th).

Then there`s one early morning before work when it`s all foggy. This is typical of October and November, especially around Halloween. This was on October 25.

And there was even snow, lots of it. December 7th.

Japan Trip Pictures – Kyoto Hen Part 1

Posted on February 17th, 2008 in Travel by andrija

The Kyoto part of the trip started with arrival at the Kyoto train station. It is a very impressive piece of architecture. Very massive piece, too.

The station is just too big to be captured by one or two pictures. There’s a train station – both Shinkansen and local trains, subway station, big department store as well as an underground mall.

It’s very hard to choose a favourite photo of the station. Still, I think I will choose this one.

In front of the station there’s a hotel (I think) and it has a tower with the observatory. We haven’t gone up though.

Old imperial palace – Nijo-jo or Nijo castle – was one of my highlights of the trip. Incredible. Rightfully a word heritage site. Built 1573-1614. It has the Nightingale floor – the floor squeaks not unlike a bird when you walk over it, no matter how slow, quiet or careful you try to be. This was made so by paranoid shoguns so that no assassins could sneak up on them while they sleep. It’s very cool to experience. You can go in but you must take off your shoes and walk in socks, the experience is well worth it.

As great as the palace itself is, its gardens are positively amazing.

This is the entrance to the Honmaru (inner palace and its garden).

Another photo from the garden.

The fairly new (1965) Seiryu-en garden, of which one part is Japanese style and one part Western style is one of my Japan trip favourites, including some of my favourite photos from this trip. The composition of different materials is amazing.

This is the grainery of the palace.

This is a photo of the outside of the palace – on a day before, when we came just a bit too late for a visit. The subway station entrance is right across the street – this is what you’d see when you exit, from a different angle.

If you only had one day it Kyoto, you are supposed to walk the Philosopher’s Path. It’s a kilometre (or two) long shaded path, next to a shallow canal. In summer it is far more bearable place to be than the rest of the city.

Steven can be seen in appropriate mood here.

We visited only one temple on this path – Ginkakuji temple. It is famous for its Zen rock garden. No, this isn’t just a nice well kept garden. It’s a Zen rock garden.

It’s amazing how well the grounds are kept. But then, the whole experience is supposed to induce Zen state so it’s like saying that an old European church has nice frescoes inside.

There’s a cemetery here, like in Christian churches. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen cemeteries in any other Japanese shrine I’ve been to. Perhaps the most famous shrines don’t typically have cemeteries?

Yesterday weather was weird – today it was simply bad

Posted on February 6th, 2008 in Uncategorized by andrija

Weather yesterday was weird and uncomfortable at times but mostly just weird, with every imaginable weather phenomenon occurring (more or less, I didn’t see any explicit fog but it’s a big city, somewhere it could’ve happened).  Today it was much worse, in the afternoon it started snowing vigorously and the wind blew it horizontally at times.  It was also very cold so even short periods of time spent outside were undesirable.  On the other hand, in the US they had quite a few tornado-related deaths today so I suppose we don’t have much to complain about.  It is February after all.

Freaky weather

Posted on February 5th, 2008 in Life,Vancouver by andrija

Today is yet another day of freaky weather in Vancouver.  This morning I got up to see snow falling and everything was white, mostly.  When I left the building for work an hour later I expected snow as I walked out – instead I got hit by rain and had to quickly retreat to pull my umbrella out of the bag.  While walking I was battered by strong winds.  That was also the likely cause of my umbrella snapping – I got it in Japan in September and as usual it was dead in less than a year.  The only umbrella that lasted long was the one I got for free from a TELUS contractor while I worked on Lynx project (it’s been 6 years and it still works!).  It was a miserable though short walk from the mall to the office.

Then today at lunch time I had to run back home as I forgot to bring some motherboards I was about to sell via Craigslist.  It wasn’t raining any longer but it was cold and windy and cloudy.  An hour later, and now while still cold and very windy (office building door stays open due to wind!) – the sun is shining and the sky is at least partially blue!

What the hell?!

Playing back FLAC or ALAC in Windows Media Player

Posted on February 2nd, 2008 in Hardware & Software by andrija

To play Apple Lossless (ALAC) or FLAC files with Windows Media Player in Vista, you need to download and install several programs.  One of them is DirectShow source filter.  On this website you can download the latest version of DC-BASS Source.  I tested the installer version and it ran under Vista 64-bit.  This only lets WMP recognize the format, not play it – for that, you need the decoder.  I believe if you have a recent version of libavcodec library, you will have decoders for FLAC and ALAC; installing something like CCCP (Combined Community Codec Pack) will give you those decoders.

Unfortunately, one part is still missing.  While you will at least be capable of playing back these files in WMP now upon manual request, they will not be automatically recognized (through folder monitoring) nor will their tags (e.g. track, artist, composer, album) be presented.  While there is a plugin for that purpose – WMP tag support extender – it does not work under Vista 64-bit.  It will install, but will then hang (freeze) the WMP and will be auto-disabled next time you start the WMP.  I have no solution for this yet and it appears that project is no longer active (last updated in Feb 2007).

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ATI 3450 video card doesn’t wok with AsRock 4CoreDual-Vsta motherboard

Posted on February 2nd, 2008 in Hardware & Software by andrija

I tried to make a HTPC yesterday using AsRock 4CoreDual-Vsta motherboard and the new Radeon ATI 3450, released only this week.  From various discussions on the web, it looks like this old motherboard using VIA 880 Ultra chipset does not fully implement PCI Express specification.  It only has 4 lanes where 16 are supported by video cards and its specification is roughly 1.0, that much is obvious from the manual.  However, new ATI Radeon 3450 is PCI Express 2.0 and while it displays picture and lets you install Windows, once you attempt to install drivers for it, the PC crashes after reboot and won’t boot again unless booted into safe mode and ATI drivers are removed.  Normally, 2 should be backwards compatible with 1 but in this case it doesn’t work and so it really does look like the board’s PCI Express implementation is a hack that has trouble holding up against the tide of 2.0 cards. 

The good news is that likely similar problem affecting ATI Radeon 3870 and 3850 was fixed by AsRock just before Christmas, via BIOS update.  And before that, there was a BIOS update for ATI 2400 and 2900 series cards.  Even though the board is not at all new, it is still being actively supported, kudos to AsRock.  I hope they will release BIOS update for my card as well, until then my HTPC is dead.

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