: High on the Hog Blog
Purveyor of Idle Observation

Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at

In search of the perfect laptop

I’m starting law school in the not to distant future and one of the first orders of business is to find the perfect laptop. The University of Houston law center techies have a recommended Dell laptop that gets you 3 years of free technical support, but frankly I’ve used a Dell for the last 3 years and it’s just not worth it, in my humble opinion.

So what constitutes the perfect laptop these days? Before I get down to the technical, let’s step back for a moment. What do I need to really do with a laptop?

Mostly basic stuff. Personally I think only fools buy new cars and laptops with the fastest processors. Fools or rich people, that is. Primarily, I need to be able to take notes, take quizes (on software that only plays nice with Windows apparently, no mac for me) and check e-mail in the library wirelessly. Those are the big three, for which just about any PC laptop will suffice. What does that mean so far?

  • Windows Laptop running XP Pro
  • Embedded wireless card, preferably G

However, some of my supplementary requirements will likely narrow the field quite a bit. My inner-geek desparately wants to be able to record the lectures I attend, either to share with fellow students or to review prior to the test. This will enable me to be less of a transcription machine during class (terrified I’ll miss the quirks that are on the final but not in the book) and be more engaged with the material, knowing I can always go back and review the tape if I get lost in a rabbit trail of thought. Ideally, I would like to have both audio and video. Video would require a video camera, a video camera that could capture the feed and the appropriate hardware hookups. Just doing Audio would require a mic-in and a microphone. Video would also require beefier hardware to handle the encoding. There are a lot of hardware/software combinations here, but I think I’ll be able to find one running the Windows Media Center, along with the appropriate inputs.

  • Windows Laptop running XP Pro Windows Media Center
  • RCA or S-video inputs (not sure about this one)
  • 80 GB plus hard drive
  • 512 MB plus RAM

Since I’ll be away from home a lot, I’d like my computer to serve as a mobile command center. I’ve signed up for Skype and plan on getting Houston number in lieu of a land-line. As I’ve discovered, headsets are unworkable and you never have them set up when someone calls, so a built-in microphone is a must. Skype does video conferencing as well, so a built-in web cab would be ideal. So far I’ve only seen these in Sony VIAOs.

  • built-in microphone
  • built-in web cam

Storage and media are another issue. Any laptop I get must have a CD burner (CDRW) and it would be awfully nice to have a DVD-RW for backup purposes. With an eye on cost, though, only CDRW is a necessity. Also, since I like to take pictures and I hate camera cables, a built-in memory card reader is a must.

  • CDRW
  • built-in memory card reader

So that’s my initial list. Expensive? Normally, but I think I can find some diamonds in the rough. I don’t want to spend more than $1000. Definitely not more than $1200. Rebates abound and deal-watchers have plenty of tools at their disposal on the internet now. Since I won’t be ready to buy for another couple of months, this is mostly just to see what’s out there, but it would be nice to know, wouldn’t it?

What’s next? Off to Best Buy to see if there are any intangibles I’ve overlooked.

Beards are the New Black

As unlikely as it sounds, the law of averages predicts I would coincide with a fashion trend eventually, I guess. According to this article in the New York Times, Paul Bunyan, Modern-Day Sex Symbol, beards are all the rage.

“This is some sort of reaction to men who look scrubbed, shaved, plucked and waxed,” said the designer Bryan Bradley, who stepped onto the runway after his Tuleh presentation looking like a renegade from the John Bartlett show, at which more than half the models wore beards: untidy ones that scaled a spectrum from wiry to ratty to shabby to fully bushy.

“It’s less ‘little boy,’ ” Mr. Bradley said. “For a while men have looked too much like Boy Scouts going off to day camp.”

My vacation from shaving has turned into a sabbatical.

Filmmaker Errol Morris

Errol Morris is a very interesting guy, so it makes sense that he would have an equally interesting website. I discovered Morris through Thin Blue Line (1988), one of the most remarkable documentaries I’ve ever seen. Long story short, the publicity of the film helped get a wrongly convicted man off death row. If you haven’t seen it yet, it needs to be on your list of things to do this weekend.

Some of the more interesting items on the site are the Aborted Projects, including video footage

The Movie Movie, an aborted project, is based on the idea of taking Donald Trump, Mikhail Gorbachev and others and putting them in the movies they most admire. Isn’t it possible that in an alternative universe Donald Trump actually starred in Citizen Kane?

Also check out the Academy Awards Movie and the commercials, so many of which I recognize it makes me wonder what other great directors work I’m fast-forwarding through on my Tivo.

Server OS start up page mistaken for haX0r exploit

I stumbled upon this hilarious interchange between city manager in Oklahoma who mistook the initial unconfigured welcome screen of the server software running his website for the devious work of a hacker and the bewildered linux developer trying to help him. Anyone who has ever done any kind of technical support will recognize the beauty of it.

Who gave you permission to invade my website and block me and anyone else from accessing it??? Please remove your software immediately before I report it to government officials!! I am the City Manager of Tuttle, Oklahoma.

Article from the Register: Oklahoma city threatens to call FBI over ‘renegade’ Linux maker

Transcript: The full transcript from Cent OS

Pardon My Mess

This is not proper web design methodology, but I’ve been sitting on this redesign for so long now I decided to just throw it out there and let its current (now public) state of disrepair serve as an incentive to finish it. In any event, I present version 3.0.

Aside from the new design, very little has changed. I’ve retired the old High on the Hog Blog and have resurrected it in a slightly more ambitious form. All the old blog posts are available here.

More additions are on the way…

Yellowstone Academy buys Douglass Elementary from HISD

Yellowstone Academy, a private Christian elementary school has agreed to purchase the historic Douglass Elementary School building from Houston Independent School District according to a Houston Chronicle article.

Douglass Elementary had been leased this past year to KIPP Academy which opened a charter school to serve displaced students from New Orleans. HISD had closed the school in 2003 because of declining enrollment.

Douglas Elementary is located in the historic Third Ward community of Houston.

Sidney Lumet, Vin Diesel, Find Me Guilty

Sidney Lumet is one of those directors whose career may be more fascinating than his movies. Charlie Rose interviews director Sidney Lumet on his new movie Find Me Guilty. I started to realize why I feel this way when I heard this quote,

The thing is this, that, I don’t what the result is gonna be, I don’t even know what the result is going to be creatively. We know how to lay the groundwork for it, but whether or not it happens, and I think you’ll get this answer from everyone who has done a good movie, is accidental.

The one thing that matters to me, from the beginning, is the process.

Charlie Rose interviews Sidney Lumet (March 21, 2006) (Download via Google Video, $.99)

Vin Diesel is another fascinating character, woefully underestimated in intelligence and talent because of his image and career in action movies.

Charlie Rose interviews Vin Diesel (August 15, 2002) (RealPlayer, free)

Basketball rivalry births classic IM hoax

Via Bruce Schneier’s blog, ostensibly about security and security technology, comes the marginally related and cautionary tale of USC guard Gabe Pruitt’s AIM encounter with a UCLA co-ed named “Victoria”.

Pruitt, who had made plans to visit “Victoria” after the game, instead discovered a thousand-strong crowd of Cal faithful chanting “Victoria, Victoria” and holding up signs with his phone number. Victoria turned out to be a member of the Cal RallyCom, and the planned meeting a gigantic hoax of legendary proportions.

“I’ve never seen anything like that, that big; it’s up there in the ranks,” he said. “I kind of got a kick out of it.” As did his father, Pruitt said, “but he kind of told me to be careful.”

Links: Bruce Schneier, The Stanford Daily, DrYuen2005, pic of priceless expression.