Everybody wants to save the earth, nobody wants to help mom do the dishes.  --P.J. O'Rourke

Friday, September 18, 2009

HP ENVY - New Premium Laptop and Shameless MacBook Pro Ripoff

Let's get this out of the way first and stipulate that the ENVY line's design is a total ripoff of the MacBook Pro design, shamelessly so actually. And why should they be ashamed? The MacBooks are by far the best looking, best constructed laptops on the planet and there is no shame in learning from your rivals. Isn't imitation the highest form of flattery? These new HPs actually out gun the Mac books in a few ways (and they ought to, they are a newer design after all), the 13 inch version ponces into the local Starbucks sporting what is purported to be the brightest screen on the market, a core 2 duo low voltage processor and a very slick, ultra thin extended battery pack that magnetically adheres to the bottom of the case, kinda like an ultra thin docking station. All said it's nice to see HP move their design into more restrained territory than their current, sometimes over-blinged, mass market consumer lineup. The new ENVYs also come with "premium" support, whatever that means. And herein lies the rub, I was a victim of the HP ZD7000 debacle and have not bought an HP product since. Like the new ENVY line the ZD looked great, but was poorly engineered where it counts, poorly documented and almost unsupported. So, as much as I like these new HP's I will wait and see. HP has been on somewhat of a roll since Carly F left (coincidence? I think not) but time will tell if they have really changed.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Microsoft's SaaS Office Offerings, First Look Today

MS released a technical preview beta today, and the broader world got a good look at what the web version of Office is going to look like. Color me impressed, at least from a look and feel perspective, the apps look very much like their desktop cousins. I have only seen very small previews, but if the apps perform like the desktop cousins, Google is going to have a tough row to hoe. We'll see how this whole thing plays out, it could turn out that the online versions suffer from the complexity and bloat of the desktop versions and that simple really is better. Still though, Enterprise customers will likely flock to the MS solution, if for no other reason than familiarity. It remains to be seen how much MS will attempt to charge and how or wether they will have free versions and if those suck. If Google can spruce up apps, I am still betting on "Free" winning the day. This could turn out to be similar to the ISP wars in that the winner will be whomever can afford to give away the product the longest without going bust. Should be fun !

Check out the Info World coverage for more info

Happy 50th to the IIHS

Wow, I would have bet money on the old iron vs. the new
plastic fantastic..Check it out, very intesting !

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Chevy Small Block - The Worlds Best Engine

There have been many great engines in automotive history, a good many of them more elegant, precise, light or powerful, but none can match the Chevy Small Block in terms flexibility and longevity. Okay, so I am a Yank, and this is a Yank motor for Yank tanks, but name me one other motor that has had more wide ranging applications. The VW air cooled 4 might come closest, being installed in everything from airplanes to a fleet of replicars. Still, the Chevy small block kicks it's ass back all the way to Wolfsburg and back again (and I say this with two 'dubs in my driveway). The beauty of the small block is it's typical American interchangeability, and that my friends is how the good guys won Dubya Dubya Too. The small block is nearly the perfect size to fit almost anywhere @ roughly 2' x 2' x 2' and it has been fitted almost everywhere. Jaguars with Chevy V8's ? Check ! Lambo's with small blocks? Check !, Airplanes? Check !, Boats ? You Betcha !. How about a chainsaw ? Yah Sure Ya Betcha. Triumph TR4 Check, Check, and Check ! Find me another engine that can do all that. Then find me one that where cranks, pistons and conrods, can be interchanged to suite your needs.

Start with the 327 (the best IMHO)
-Change the crankshaft to add more stroke (they all had the same conrod) and viola the 350
- Use the crank from a 283 and you get the awesome 302 Can Am race motor.
- The mix the stroke of the 327 with the bore of a 283 and behold the 307.

The culmination of the small block's displacement growth was the 1970 siamesed bored small block 400 ci. Oddly enough (though they had almost mythical status during my 80's childhood) these relatively rare motors had the glass jaw of the 1968-85 small block family. from the factory they had the lowest compression ratio and HP specs of the small block family, though hot rodded versions are a different story. Personally I abhor GM big block V8's and oddball Pontiac, Buick, Olds and Caddy V8's. I am sure they each have their merits, but none can match the out of the box rightness of the Chevy small block. Maybe it's the fact that they are all "over-square", my current car uses the Audi 4.2 V8, which is an incredible engine, with space age technology, but even at full boil, it doesn't sound or have the "snap" of a Chevy small block.

Lee Valley / Veritas Cyclone Lids

Economical Woodworking Dust Control

I cottoned on to using my shop vac to control dust from
inside renovations some time ago. It makes a huge
difference and eliminates a lot of cleanup time and makes
the work go faster since one is not constantly running
outside to cut or shape stock. The one wrinkle in this
otherwise good solution is that even a big shop vac fills up
in no time and the filter gets clogged easily. In a pro wood
shop, the dust is collected by a central vac and larger
particles are separated out by a specialized cyclonic
separator. These are big and expensive systems and are
impractical for use in the home. On a whim a few days ago
I went looking for a solution on the internets. I found these
at Lee Valley tools, I have not tried one yet, but will be
definitely ordering one soon. I have had great luck with the
vac/tool switch I purchased from them earlier, and have
had good experiences with their products before. If you
are in need of any oddball woodworking tools, give them a
shot, they have practically everything.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tattling Tootsie - Putting the Tootsie in Tootsie Roll

Today, during my 3rd floor stairway restoration, behind one of the old plaster walls, I found this, an old newsprint cartoon booklet featuring a character named Tattling Tootsie. After rescuing it from the Wet/Dry Vac, I set it aside with a few other interesting things that were back there (i.e. a blue wooden game piece and game card with the state name Missouri printed on it). The back of the booklet looks like this:

After I had finished the work at hand, I consulted the Googles on the subject of "Tattling Tootsie" and Broman-Gelon. And interestingly enough, this is what I came up with:

"The genesis of the company that has been a familiar part of the American cultural landscape for nearly a century can be traced to the Brooklyn kitchen of a newly arrived immigrant from Austria, Leo Hirshfield. In 1896, after having already developed such successful products as Bromangelon, a jelling powder that would later serve as the prototype for modern day gelatins, Hirshfield concocted a thick, chewy chocolate mixture, which he divided into bite-size rolls, wrapping each piece with paper to keep it clean and sanitary. The hand wrapping--believed to be an industry first--enabled Hirshfield's product, named "Tootsie Roll" after his daughter Clara "Tootsie" Hirshfield, to stand out among the competitor's candy-counter offerings, which were sold by the scoop out of large barrels or jars. The new penny candy was an instant success with the children in Hirshfield's Brooklyn neighborhood. He soon realized that he would need more capital to promote and expand his candy business to meet the growing demand. To that end, he merged his operation with a local candy manufacturer, Stern & Staalberg, just a year later. Sales continued to boom, and by 1922 the company, renamed Sweets Company of America, was listed on the New York Stock Exchange."

BTW: Here is the text from one of the booklet pages:

" I never tell lies" said mother's child,
"But the other night my pa was wild.
For dinner was late and he scolded like fun-
but he smiled when ma brought him Bromangelon'

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some Other Interesting Sawhorse Designs

Here are a couple of other neat sawhorse designs I happened upon that seemed like contenders

A Three Legged Sawhorse.

From what I gather, sawhorses with three legs were at one time quite popular, no doubt for the same reason three legged stools are, that being stability on uneven ground. While I could not find detailed plans for this one, it's pretty self evident how it hangs together. Check out the site for different views and some of the unique ways this unit can hold stock. Being tall, I would want it to be much higher which would probably require increasing the leg's splay for stability.

A Classic Sawhorse from Fine Woodworking

This is a nice elegant design which has detailed
CAD plans available free online. A bit fancy for
everyday use, but a very nice design non the less