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Entries From April 2007

April 23, 2007

First Visitors

Filed under Family, Travel

I had my first visitors to San Francisco last weekend: my Dad and Rosie.

They came in on Saturday morning and left on Tuesday morning.

On Saturday, we had lunch at Mel's Diner, which was attached to their hotel, The Opal. Mel's was featured in American Graffiti...it has a bit of a toned-down cheesy-Planet Hollywood feel, but the food is OK.

After lunch, we walked around the Marina where I live. We walked to the Presidio and saw the Letterman Digital Arts Center, where I work. Then we headed to the Exploratorium.

I had never been to the Exploratorium before. It is amazing! It reminds me of the Emerging Technologies/Art Exhibit at SIGGRAPH, only about 10 times bigger. We only had about an hour an a half to explore, and that wasn't enough...definitely plan on going back to this place.

For dinner, we had good steaks, slow service at Izzy's in the Marina.

On Sunday, we drove down the crooked Lombard Street (my first time seeing it).

Then we headed across Golden Gate bridge to visit Muir Woods...one of my favorite destinations.

Next, we took in a great view of the city from Conzelman Road, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Even though I know he didn't want to, Dad was a good sport and had sushi with me and Rosie for dinner. On Sunday night, the two sushi places I knew were closed, so we went to Ace Wasabi's Rock-n-Roll Sushi. I don't think either of them had sushi before. They seemed to enjoy it...or maybe it was the large amounts of Sake consumed...either way it was a good time.

On Monday, I had to go back to work. Dad and Rosie met me for lunch at ILM. I had no problem getting them in. I took them around the buildings, showed them several movie props and matte background paintings used in movies. We ate in the cafeteria and then went to the company store to get some ILM/LucasFilm shirts. I took them around where I worked and showed them the concept art for the Star Wars game that covers our hallways.

Pictures of our weekend are here.

Thanks Dad and Rosie for the visit!


April 21, 2007

I Love You My Weng Weng

Filed under Funny

I dare you to watch this and not have the theme music stuck in your head.


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The Landlord

Filed under Funny

If you haven't seen this yet...you will. Might as well get it out of the way and see it here.

Here is some background on the clip. 7 million viewers in 24 hours ain't bad.

Will Ferrell. "The Landlord"

Add to My Profile | More Videos

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April 17, 2007

Classical (Video Game) Music

Filed under Video Games

This was going around work today...

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April 16, 2007

AT&T Park

Filed under Sports

I got to go see the San Francisco Giants play the Los Angeles Dodgers last weekend at AT&T Park. Tickets were $32 a seat.

I did learn one thing...San Francisco *really* doesn't like Los Angeles and vice-versa (baseball or otherwise).

AT&T Park has the bay as a backdrop...very cool! The fog rolled in during the game. You could see it swirl over the top of the stands as it traveled by. Here are some pics from the game.


April 15, 2007

New PC!

Filed under Computers, Reviews

I was holding off buying a PC until I could get one with Vista. About the time Vista was released, I got a new job and had to move. So my new PC had to wait.

Once I started getting paychecks again...I put in my order to Dell for a new PC.

I really like the way the Dell XPS 710's look. We had several at my last job, and I was close to getting one...but space is a premium for me now. The 710 is big and heavy. You can fill it with a bunch of hard drives...but I only need one hard drive.

I decided to go with a Dell Dimension E520.

Here are the vitals:

  • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit (including original install DVD)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 (2.13 GHz, 1066 FSB, 2MB cache)
  • 2 GB DDR2 SDRAM at 667 MHz
  • 24 inch Dell 2407FPW UltraSharp LCD
  • Intel Integrated Graphics (Temporary solution...waiting on upcoming Nvidia/ATI DirectX 10 cards that should be out this month)
  • 250 GB SATA II Hard Drive (7200 RPM)
  • 16X DVD+/-RW Drive
  • Integrated Audio
  • Dell speakers that fit under the flat panel monitor
  • 13 in 1 Media Card Reader
  • 1 Year Support

The total came to $1,554.76 using my LucasFilm employee discount. The LucasFilm discount saved me about $250. That figure does not include tax, which was an additional $131.73. Shipping was free.

This is my first PC without a floppy drive. I haven't used a floppy in years.

I've used my 21 inch Compaq monitor since I left my job at Compaq in 1997. Back then, I bought it with my employee discount for half price...$1,000. I got 10 years of service out of it...not bad!

The new 24" widescreen LCD looks great. I am hooked on widescreen aspect ratio for computers. This is the same monitor I use at work. 

The system is fast and very quiet. I had to turn off my old PC so it would not bother me while watching movies...not so with this one.

The Intel integrated graphics work great for Vista's Aero UI. The original drivers drew some random black lines on the login screen. I updated the drivers and the problem went away.

The only real problem I had was when I turned on the PC, I got an error dialog requesting a Windows disk. The keyboard and mouse weren't functioning so I could not close or skip the dialog box, and inserting all the disks that came with the system did not help. I eventually booted in Safe Mode and got past the the dialog and everything worked fine after that.

I didn't care about this...I had always planned on formatting the hard drive so I could install Vista clean. I hate all the crapware that PC makers add to their OS installations. A clean install gets rid of it all.

I'm very happy with my purchase so far!


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April 12, 2007

Vista Gem #2

Filed under Computers, Software

I found another nice feature in Windows Vista...the Snipping Tool! The Snipping Tool is a screen capturing tool. You can find the Snipping Tool at Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> Snipping Tool.

In the past, I used the "Print Screen/SysRq" key to copy the screen to the clipboard and then paste the clipboard into a paint program in order to save it as an image. Alt-Print Screen/SysRq will capture just the window with focus to the clipboard.

These keystrokes still work, but the Snipping Tool is much better and faster.

You have 4 options for screen capture:

  1. Free-Form Snip - Captures a lasso selection
  2. Full Screen - Captures the entire screen
  3. Window - Captures a Window
  4. Rectangular Snip - Captures a rectangular selection

Once you have your capture, then the Snipping Tool lets you write on your capture with a yellow highlighter or various pens.

You can save your capture as JPEG, PNG, GIF, or MHT. Interestingly, Microsoft's own BMP image format is not included.

I hadn't heard of MHT before. It is an HTML web page with the data stored *in* the file itself, instead of a pointer to the location where the data is stored. So you should be able to copy a MHT file with an embedded image to a server and open it with a web browser and everything will work...no need to copy an HTML file *and* the JPEG file it points to (which is what I do now).


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April 11, 2007

It's Coming...

Filed under Video Games

There are not many billboards in the Marina where I live, but this one got my attention. All it had was the Roman numerals "IV".

On closer inspection you can see the "Rockstar" logo...the people that make "Grand Theft Auto." The "IV" is for the upcoming Grand Theft Auto IV.

It is April and they are already advertising for a game that won't be out until October....on billboards no less. This is going to be a big release.

The trailer for GTA4 is pretty impressive...check it out here.


April 10, 2007

Vista Gem

Filed under Computers, Software

I got a new Dell PC with Windows Vista last week. While checking Vista out, I found a feature I haven't heard about before that is pretty slick if you are a GUI fan (and honestly, who isn't?).

The feature is called "Use check boxes to select items." It is off by default. To turn it on, go to Start -> Control Panel -> Appearance and Personalization -> Folder Options -> View and check "Use check boxes to select items."

What this option does is allow you to select multiple items with the mouse, but without using the Ctrl key.

You can see in the explorer window above that I selected three files by clicking the check boxes in the upper-left corner of each icon.

The check boxes are only visible if....

  1. A file is selected (check box is checked)
  2. The mouse is on top of an unselected file (check box is clear)

For non-icon explorer views (like details view), the check box appears at the start (far left) of the row.

You'll also notice a check box in the upper-left by the "Name" column. This is a toggle between select all and select none.

This is certainly subtle, but it is interesting for a couple of reasons.

  • Discoverability. A simple change to the UI has made it so new users can select multiple files without learning about Ctrl-click multiple select or Ctrl-A for select all. It is highly unlikely that a new user would Ctrl-click or use Ctrl-A without somebody explaining it to them. With the check box method, new users will probably figure it out on their own.
  • There is no need to use the keyboard to select multiple files.

I turned it on yesterday and I don't see any reason why I would turn it off.


April 8, 2007


Filed under Movies, Reviews

I saw the new movie "Grindhouse" yesterday.

The film has an unusual layout. It is actually two completely different movies with fake previews before each feature. Total running time is 3 hours, 10 minutes.

"Planet Terror" is a zombie movie and "Death Proof" is a psycho-on-a-killing-rampage movie.

I *loved* this movie. This is Tarantino's best work since Pulp Fiction. Of the two features, I preferred Tarantino's "Death Proof" over Rodriguez's "Planet Terror."

Definitely not a film for everybody. It is the goriest movie I've ever seen...which is one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. Watching with a crowd is a must...listening to the audience react to the over-the-top moments (there are several) is what makes this movie such a fun ride.

Part of the "charm" of this movie are the references to other shows. The characters talk about "tasty beverages" and "Big Kahuna Burgers" a la Pulp Fiction. There are some car chase scenes that are right out of the "Dukes of Hazard." The music at times was reminiscent of a John Carpenter horror flick.

The look of "Planet Terror" is intentionally very low-budget, however the special effects (by ILM neighbor, The Orphanage) were top-notch and gruesome.

The music was great...I ordered both CD's (1 for each movie) today.


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April 7, 2007

Windows Live Writer (Beta)

Filed under Blogging, Computers, Reviews, Software, Web

I had a bad experience with Word 2007 as a blog editor.

During the process of setting up Word to talk to Movable Type, I learned that I needed to configure Movable Type to allow publishing via external programs.

Ever since I upgraded my version of Movable Type from 3.2 to 3.34, I lost my ability to use Windows Live Writer (WLW). I went back to the old, web-based basic HTML editor for posting. It was painful, but it worked.

I decided to try WLW again to see if it would start working after my modified Movable Type to support external publishing programs...and it did!

So I'm back to using WLW again and it makes me happy!

I noticed that they have added several plug-ins since I last used WLW, which may be worth trying out.

What I like about WLW:

  • Support for tagging
  • Support for categories
  • Resize images to fit a particular blog width
  • Link to original, full size photo
  • Automagically uploads, resizes pictures
  • Spell checker
  • Very fast/light application
  • Free!
  • WYSIWYG...uses the stylesheet from your blog you know what you post will look like before you publish it.

I did notice that if I try to link to a really big photo (like a 1920x1200 desktop), WLW will fail to post to the server with a error message. Shrinking the image size fixed the problem. This is beta software...hopefully this problem will be fixed!

Blogging in Word 2007

Filed under Blogging, Reviews, Software

My brother was nice enough to hook me up with a free version of Office Pro 2007, which normally costs $499. The free offer from Microsoft is over now.

One of the first things I wanted to try out was Word's new blogging support.


What I like:

  • Spell checking
  • Easily create bulleted lists by starting a line with an asterisk (*)
  • In the same fashion, create numbered bulleted lists by prefixing your lists with "1."
  • Add pictures to a post by pasting them into Word…it will automatically convert them to .png and upload them to the server…a big time saver!
  • Lots of nice picture formatting options

What I don't like:

  • Word supports adding categories to a blog post, but for some reason they don't get transferred to my blog.
  • Word supports tagging, but these tags are not included with the post.
  • Images are resized in inches, not pixels. I know my blog works with pictures that are 320 pixels wide, I don't know what that is in inches.
  • Does not have a way (that I could find) to link to the full size image automatically. I believe you have to manually upload the full size picture and then create a hyperlink to the full size picture. This is a deal breaker!

The poor support for image resizing and hyperlinking to full size pictures is enough for me to pass on Word 2007 as a blog editor for now. Hopefully Microsoft will address my concerns in a future release or service pack.

April 5, 2007

Bird's Eye View

Filed under Reviews, Web

Microsoft's Live Search Maps has a really cool feature for some parts of the country called "Bird's Eye View." The picture above is the bird's eye view of the LucasFilm campus at the Letterman Digital Arts Center, looking to the North.

You can pick a spot and rotate around it to see it from North, South, East, and West.

I've found this view very helpful for my modeling project. I also use it when I'm going to parts of town I'm not familiar with (like all of it), so that I know what the buildings look like in the area I'm going to.

April 4, 2007

Star Wars Screen Tests

Filed under

This was going around at work today.

Part I...

Part II...


About April 2007

This page contains all entries posted to David's Blog in April 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2007 is the previous archive.

May 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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