21 June 2013

Summer Solstice in Seattle

Daughter in Japan celebrated the summer solstice at a potluck picnic sol-a-bration in the park (removed to somebody's apartment because of rain), starting off with some yoga (Tuffy says she doesn't do yoga – wrestling and judo and MMA, but no yoga), soccer (presumably deferred), and dinner, then watching the late sunset and fireworks (this part presumably still outside) on the shores of beautiful Biwako in Nagahama. They do serious fireworks in Japan.

We celebrated the summer solstice by going to Costco for dog food.

In previous years we took in the Fremont Solstice Parade, a very Seattle kind of artsy, hippie-dippy affair led off by several hundred cyclists wearing body paint and not much else. (The naked cyclists got started in the mid-90s with a handful of naked bicyclists taunting the police by streaking the parade. Now the butts on bikes have come to symbolize the festival. Who knows how these things happen?) It's tomorrow, but I think we'll take a pass. It's hard to find a place to watch where I can see anything besides a wall of fully-clothed butts.

I don't know why I don't make a bigger deal out of celebrating the summer solstice. I love the long days, even if they're often kind of gray and gloomy in this part of the world. Maybe it's because, from here on out, the days are getting shorter and darker. Can't like that. At the winter solstice, the days starting to get longer really seems like something to celebrate. Maybe that's it.

Still, it's been a nice long day. And we've got plenty of dog food.

17 June 2013

Adventures in Adaptive Technology

One thing I miss about my old day job is that my employer provided bleeding edge techie toys, and expected me to play with them. Indeed, it was part of my job description; how cool is that? They were mobile devices, mostly – laptops, smartphones, and the like. It’s coming up on four years now, but I’m still suffering withdrawal. When the pangs of deprivation get particularly intense, I’m likely to wind up on the ‘net, looking for new software. This frequently turns out to be a bad idea.

 Most recently, I found myself looking for a workable voice-recognition solution for Linux. I torture myself with this from time to time. If I could use voice recognition with Linux, I could ditch Windows, and I’d do it in a heartbeat.

 I didn’t find anything this time, either.

 Found this, though:
Enable Viacam (eViacam) is a mouse replacement software that moves the pointer as you move your head.
It works on standard PC equipped with a webcam. No additional hardware is required.
It's completely free, open source and easy to use!” 
 Too good to be true? One sure way to find out…

Well, no, apparently it’s not. I’ve been using ViVo Mouse, a commercial ($$$) head tracking software, for several years, so I’m familiar with the concept. I installed eViacam, just for grins, just to see how a free, open-source product would stack up against my $$$ ViVo Mouse. I was dubious; it didn’t have nearly as many settings and configuration options. You didn’t have to tell it how to find your WebCam, you didn’t have to do anything to get it to work with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, none of that. You just install it, and it’s supposed to work. Too good to be true, I’m thinkin’.

 Except it’s not.

 You just install it, and it works, pretty much. While I did tweak a couple of settings, it was more like adjusting preferences than making functional changes. One thing I could do in ViVo Mouse that was awkward in eViacam could be managed easily enough with a macro. And I will happily write a lot of macros for $$$.

So I’ve been using it ever since. It works at least as well as ViVo Mouse which, by the bye, hasn't released a software update in almost three years. If anything, I’d say it works a little better. So there you go.

If it seems like I failed to get myself into enough trouble this time, fear not. Those macros? I’ve been using AutoHotkey for a while and have largely come to terms with it, but I just found NatLink, and Vocola, and Unimacro… extensions to Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and extensions to the extensions. Beta versions! Life at the bleeding edge! This will probably turn out to be a bad idea.

 Fun though.

15 June 2013

Father's Day

Dad with his 1949 Hudson.
It still seems weird not to call and wish him happy Father's Day.

He was not always an easy guy to get along with, but he was who he was, and if you didn't like it, it was your loss. It was a lesson I'm still trying to learn.

Scarecrow is planning to spend Father's Day preparing burnt offerings on the grill. He started a couple of batches of beer a few weeks ago, which should be about ready to drink. I expect a good time will be had by all.

For all the fathers out there, it's a tough job; thanks for doing it.