Category : Other

Making Cases

Typically, expensive gear comes with protective sleeves or plastic covers out of the box and more protective (and more expensive) options are available, sometimes from third parties. For a lot of larger audio/video equipment, cases are purchased separately.  There are various reasons why;  some projects require water tight cases while others need to be certain dimensions for airline carry-on. Regardless of the reason, buying a case is an important and expensive part of acquiring gear.

I purchased a Porta-Brace water-tight case to store my camera, follow focus, and some other things since they are the most expensive pieces of equipment I own. The case has removable squares that allow you to make the foam custom to your equipment. The squares aren’t perfect but they work.

My lighting kit and tripod came with their own cases but both the lights and the tripod are somewhat robust pieces of gear compared to cameras and lenses, so these cases didn’t need to be anything special. My camera support equipment however did not come with a case and needed one. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on another case. Some of these pieces are somewhat small and oddly shaped so using another case with cube-based foam would require a lot of space; a large expensive case. Some of the camera support pieces are very robust such as the rod-links and cheese-plate but others are not, such as the lens-gears. None of the camera support equipment is electronic however so water and moisture are not as big an issue. I decided to make a custom case myself.

I acquired a large old projector case from the IT department at work. It was headed for the trash so I felt extremely lucky when I rescued this gem. I actually snagged it a couple months before making this case. Never had a use for it until now. It was a perfect for this project, HUGE and even made of genuine leather. It also had lots of additional compartments and slots for other production necessities. I keep small gels, scripts, tools, and all kinds of things in this bag now.

To make the main foam insert to protect my gear I managed to get some thick foam, about 5 inches. Its density is little hard but foam is foam so it was great. I laid out all the pieces I wanted to fit in the case which was actually a little tricky but I managed to get them to all fit with enough padding around them to ensure they’re secure.

I had to organize the objects using illustrator so I could best fit all the equipment in one case. This required some intricate layering of gear and ended up taking me a few hours but the planning paid off.  If I would have winged it and cut into the foam without drawing it out, I wouldn’t have been able to fit all the pieces in or have them as secure.

To make the slots I cut a hole through the foam then took the cutout piece, sliced off the end and placed it back inside to make the bottom padding. I choose the thickness of the slice based on how large the piece was and how deep it needed to sit in the case. The lid of the projector case was already padded for a projector so top foam wasn’t necessary but if it was, you could just take a thin foam sheet, cut it to the case size and glue it to the inside lid.

 

Here is a graphic I made of how I cut the foam.

The pattern I drew in the example above would be useful for storing… a doll’s shoe? No, a die-cast oven mit! Collectors edition.

Watch the video to see the finished version and how everything fits.

 

 

Note: I was in a bit of a hurry doing this (upcoming shoot) and spend most of my time planning it so there are some rough cuts and edges on some of the foam but the protective attributes of the case where clearly not compromised by this.

 

Making of a Prop Rifle

  • Posted On January 4, 2013
  • Categorized In Other
  • Written By

A friend of mine was working on a new costume (or cosplay) of the character Yoko from Gurren Lagann . The character wields an overly large rifle and not much else. My friend’s cosplay was coming along very nicely. She told me how she has tried to be as detailed and accurate to the character as possible but with one exception  She had no rifle! She wanted one but knew of no way to make one equally as detailed as her sewing and the accessories she made to match the character. There were some examples online but most where too complex or not accurate or proportioned properly. I was totally up to the task but not very confident, having little prop-making experience.

I found a few generic prop tutorials online that helped me gather ideas and I even found many photos of other people’s attempts to make the rifle. Some were better than others and the age of craftsmen also ranged greatly but I was only looking for ideas – and these helped a lot.

One of the first steps for me was buying the toy figurine of the character with her rifle. This allowed me to get all the proportions and scaling recorded properly. One thing I noticed in a lot of cosplay photos was that the scale was wildly different from prop to prop. I drew out the rifle and got all my measurements planned out on paper. Next step, Lowes and Home Depot. After looking at a lot of prop making tutorials for other props, I knew some essentials would be MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) and PVC Pipe. While walking around the stores I found lots of other neat things that ended up really helping and worked great.

Sadly I was in such a hurry to build the rifle I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked but here is what I have.

Workspace & Tools

   

Making Of

Here are some progress shots of the prop and the mix of materials I used. Stacking the MDF with wood glue gave me a lot of flexibility for various parts of the gun since I didn’t have a table saw to do large cuts. You can see the PVC pipe used for the base of the gun, but for the barrel I used a thick wooden rod since the PVC pipe bowed too much when using longer sections of thinner pipe. I used acrylic on the back with a heat gun so I was able to bend it over the top of the body to give me a seamless rifle-stock. There were some mistakes like miss-drills and scratches throughout the gun that I later filled with putty and sanded.

   

That smaller rod in center (last photo) is actually the bolt that goes inside the body of the gun. I made the gun have working bolt action using a few other neat things found at Home Depot.

After the gun was painted up black, I added a plastic pieces on the back of the scope to make it look like a real scope. I used a dollar-store magnifying set and just popped out a lens.

Finished Prop in Action

Here are some photos took of her at the convention (my deadline).

   

The one item we were unable to complete in time was the strap. For time’s sake she made one out of fabric. I suggested just not having one since the fast make-shift fabric strap she made on the fly looked quite bad and distracted from the prop and her great costume. There is always the next convention!

 

 

Resume Dissection

  • Posted On December 15, 2012
  • Categorized In Other
  • Written By

Each time I update my resume I can’t help but look online at resume writing guides, tips, and all the other advice on the internet. It’s really hard to put together a resume that will work as well as it possibly could and I doubt mine is anywhere near that stage – however I do think it’s worlds better than where it was two years ago. Yes the content is better since my skill and experience have obviously expanded but i’m talking in terms of layout, organization, grammar, and selected content. Changes that could have been made at any time. Below is my current resume with notes on all the things I think are worth pointing out. They’re either creative choices I’ve made or important things to think about when writing a resume.

[tabs][tab title=”1″]

Resume Legend

This should be obvious but I’ve seen a surprising amount of my friends resumes with small names at the top of their resumes. Even though my resume is already very tight on space, I would never sacrifice the size of my name for space. There is a ‘too big’ but I think it’s important to have your name stand out well since the whole resume is about you and you want whoever is reading it to see your name or be able to find your resume with ease.  It might be OK to use some typography here to make your name stand out a tad more but I wouldn’t go crazy. I work in a creative field and I still try to keep mine conservative. (One thing I don’t think I have to say but will anyway, is that the name should always be on the top too.)[/tab]

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Resume Legend

As the header to my resume I have my name and contact information. This obviously is at the top which seems to be the norm for resumes.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

The content of the resume may be more important than my contact info but the contact info seems best suited under my name. If I were to place it else-where I would have to put my name again, taking up more space.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

For my work experience, the title includes the company (in bold), my job titles, the dates I worked there, and the type of work it was, in this case it was Full-Time. Other types of work include contract, part-time, temporary, or even a combination of those. These are all pretty standard for resumes.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

Writing ‘Company Closed’ after my experience title was a suggestion I found on a few different websites. The idea here is to help readers understand why the work duration was relatively short (which in this case it was under 2 years) so that I don’t look like a “job-hopper”. The other advantage of having this is that readers will also quickly realize why I’m looking for a new job which always seem to be one of the first interview questions on the phone. If my work here lasted for 4 or more years I would probably leave off the ‘Company Closed’ and just explain that if it ever comes up.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

I keep my section headers to the left in their own column so they’re easy to find and the resume has a structure that’s easy to navigate at first glance. It does eat up a bit of space but the white space helps my resume look clean and gives it some style so the reduction in space is a small price to pay.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

Having a wide range of skills and having worked on many types of projects leaves me with a difficult task when writing my resume. I want to concentrate on the experience that is most relevant to the jobs I want but I also want to show that I am able and have experience in other areas. So for this example I included only two bullets of non-video related duties I performed and even listed them last.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

One of the most difficult part of writing my resume was wording each achievement/task for my experience. It was important to get the design and layout of my resume done first so I know how much space I had. You’ll notice almost every bullet is about the same length and none take up more than one line. I read on several sites that I shouldn’t start any of the statements with the same word which made this even more difficult. There are only so many verbs to choose from so I had to get a little creative. I did use a few duplicates but I made sure to spread them out and not to use any verb more than twice. For these bullets its also important to try and list achievements or goals met rather than duties (as I’ve read in a few places as well). I wasn’t able to always do this but as I add more things to my resume I’ll reduce a lot of this content and leave only those achievements.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

Whenever possible I try to reference the actual project I worked on or company I worked with.  This helps validate my experience and gives the reader the opportunity to check out the projects or companies I’ve worked with. I italicize the projects or companies to help them stand out.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

I already mentioned I put the date of employment for the experience in the title but I when it came to dating the freelance experience it was a little trickier. For some clients, I worked on projects off and on while others were steadier during the timeframes. As my own rule of thumb, if I worked on a project multiple times that were within a few months of each other, I’ll just list it as a date range. This hasn’t really come up but I’ve thought about it as past clients have recently contacted me for new projects. If a 3 year old project comes back and I begin working with them again, I may either list the dates on after another or even leave the dates out altogether.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

The ‘Other’ section served to hold any experience/achievements I had that I want readers to know about. This is also a good place to put any non-video related freelance experience.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

Many of the projects are big enough or complex enough to warrant their own section with bullets however in order to save space on my resume I consolidated some of the experience. To do this I created an ‘Other’ section and a ‘Films’ section.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

To save some space, I used an ampersand (&) on this skill as the two are closely related.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

The skills section was also tricky as I have a long list of skills that are relevant and I would want the reader to know but with the lack of space I had to decide on what was more important. After asking some peers and colleges I got a common response and that was to just cut out any skills that are evident in my experience and only list the ones that I felt lacked representation in the experience part of my resume. This was another good place to put non-video related skills since I didn’t want to use too much space writing about those skills in the experience section. I did try to be careful however since I’m skeptical that a reader may skim and see the skills then think I’m not a video-centric person because my skills list contains mostly non-video skills. I’m still thinking about changing this part but I want to hear what more people have to say.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

Data Asset Management is one of those silly things that just about everyone can do or learn even when there are DAM specific applications being used yet I still see this listed out in many job postings. Since I don’t want to touch on something so trivial in my cover-letter (where space is also limiting) but since they took the time to include it in the job-posting I want to have it somewhere for them to see.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

Technical Proficiencies is another one of those things that, if the person reading my resume was someone in my field, they would know from my experience that I know many of these applications or that I know similar ones and can adapt to them very quickly. Sadly though, the person who is going to be reading my resume first may be an HR coordinator or a recruiter. For them it’s important that I list out some of the more common and industry-prominent software proficiencies I have. Again this list could be much larger but to conserve space I’ve only listed a select amount.[/tab]

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Resume Legend

The last item on my list is my education. I’ve seen the resume placement of Education debated many times online but some of the more notable explanations I’ve found explained that later in a career, the education is less important and more of just a quick qualification and experience is much more important. The other justification I think makes a lot of sense is that Education is one of those things that, if it matters, the reader will look for it so it doesn’t really matter where it is on the resume (assuming your resume is easy to navigate).[/tab][/tabs]

Color

I have seen many creative resumes use color and remain professional and nice looking but I’m always skeptical on whether I should use color or not. I do have a color pallet I use for my website and business card (‘my identity’) so I could easily add color to my resume but I always fear leaving the more professional, straightforward style. I don’t want my resume to stand out for its color or even its design but rather it’s content.

Customizing Resume

Now that my resume is lacking some content due to lack of space I find that when applying to certain jobs it can be really helpful to tailor my resume towards that job. For example if I find a posting that details a very video centric job with little deviation into design or web, then I can strip some of those skills out and throw in some more video related things to catch the readers eye.

Expanded Resume

Since my resume can contain a lot of content I could almost write a CV however my field rarely asks for these so it would be a waste of my time. Instead, my online resume is not formatted as a tradition paper resume and instead is just displayed in the format of my website. This allows me to include a few extra bullets here and there as well as a much larger list of skills. I still try very hard to be concise with my bullets because even with the unlimited space, I don’t want to scare a reader off or look overly-conceited.

Work Environments

  • Posted On May 21, 2011
  • Categorized In Other
  • Written By

Work environments are very important to creative people and are often overlooked by larger companies where creative departments are present. Creative work environments have always intrigued me and led me to research why creative spaces are important and the different elements to consider.  I’ve worked as a corporate creative for six years and had my share of non-creative environments. There were many other benefits to working at a large corporation but for I’m talking just about environments. Typically corporate environments are the worst and I’ve seen many significantly worse than any I’ve ever worked in.

Photos of my work spaces are at the bottom!

My corporate environment experience was odd as I was one of the only creatives working for in our branch of the company (Valspar is a pretty big company, with about 10,000+ employees and a net worth of $6+ billion. I worked in Packaging branch). I was also the only creative in our building of about 200 people. This made it difficult to have rule-exceptions to any rules regarding my work environment such as the dress code and decorations. The dress code was at least modern and ties where a rare sight even for the higher-ups. Jeans could be worn all weak, dress shirts didn’t need tucked in, and nicer t-shirts could be worn. I’ve seen some creatives required to wear slacks and dress shoes to work every day. Talk about feeling uncomfortable, well at least for most of the creatives I know. This is sad because being comfortable is pretty important when performing creative tasks.

This relation of comfort to creativity is what is unknown by some companies.  If they knew I think they would make some dramatic changes. Yes it may be difficult to have a creative department with freedoms that other employees don’t have but the reward is that the quality of creative work will be directly affected and improved. The best solution is to separate the creative department from the core business if possible. One good example is headphones. Headphones were prohibited in our building for safety (and probably other reasons) but when I was able to wear my headphones all day, even just listening to music while working, you can imagine how jealous a few people became.

Using imagination and creativity to transform abstract ideas into a visual medium sometimes requires a high degree of concentration and imagination. That concentration and imagination is effected by and derived from several major factors. The following are some important aspects of creative environments and should be taken into consideration when housing creatives:

  • Lighting – Lighting dramatically affect the mood of an environment. Often in creative environments, depending on the type of work, you’ll rarely see florescent lights unless they’re color corrected. More often I find direct lighting common as well. Recessed lights, spot lights, and track lighting seem to be very popular in film and video environments like studios, edit suites, and screening rooms. Even conference rooms will have dimmable and recessed lights. Sunlight is also huge. It not only gives great light and is economical but I find sunlight to be very energizing as well.
  • Color and Shapes – The color of a space can also affect mood but typically most environments are neutral since it’s smart to avoid having anyone bothered by a specific color. Sometimes neutral also means boring. A workspace can be spiced up with lots of colors and shapes. Shapes meaning parts of a building’s architecture are accentuated by giving them color. Even shadows can help create a particular feel or mood to a room.
  • Sounds – People talking, machinery, computers, and other sounds can really annoy some creatives and while many people deal with these things every day, a creative is trying to use his or her imagination to come up with unique and creative ideas. This is difficult when you’re distracted of can’t think clearly because a machine keeps making noise in a random manor  Almost all creative workplaces I’ve visited let their designers and other creatives wear headphones so they can listen to whatever they wish and drowned out distractive noise. This also help creates an almost ‘library feel’ to a workplace with everyone busy working and listening to their headphones. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to wear headphones at my corporate job even though everyone else wasn’t – as I mentioned earlier. Granted I was often doing audio work as well.
  • Smell – this may seem odd but I actually sat near chemists. Well honestly I actually sat next to a laboratory that sometimes smelled so bad I would take my headphones off and head to the bathroom to compose my thoughts (and then grab some coffee, and then go somewhere else) in hopes of the smell would be gone when I return. Usually when a bad smell came around I would find the most un-creative project that needed done and work on that while the smell lingered. A good smelling and clean environment definitely helps creative work even. Something most probably take for granted.
  • Co-workers – This isn’t always thought of by managers or the workspace planners. It’s always important for employees to get along and it’s always beneficial if those employees work well together. In the creative line of work it makes all the difference. Creatives can come up with amazing ideas but the best ideas are usually ideas that gain momentum as collaboration takes place. Having a team that works well together can produce some amazing results as seen in any industry or occupation. As an example, many directors, actors, and producers will work with the same people to ensure their projects and ideas will be more successfully completed. When opinions conflict, a close group will quickly work through such hurdles. A group that doesn’t work well together may argue and spend more time fighting over ideas.
  • Plants – I’ve seen tons of plants in many creative environments and realized what a difference they make. I love having plants all around. I’m not sure if it’s the color or the organic nature of the plant but they seem to be energizing. In a more recent environment I’ve been working in, we have large bamboo trees growing right inside the office. Then on the ground floor, all the outside walls are floor-to-ceiling windows and outside are tons more bamboo trees making it almost as if the ground floor is hidden in a jungle. I love having meetings down there. One place I visited had a guy whose desk had giant fabric leaves hanging over his desk, creating an almost canopy space for him to work in.
  • Personalized Workspaces – some companies are allowing this for all employees but I think it’s especially important for creatives to have a personalized workspace. Typically this would mean photos and some artsy stationary items on one’s desk but for some it could mean a shelf filled with toys, movie posters, lava-lamps, and many other things.

There are many other small things that also contribute to creative environments as well as and there are even things companies do to help motivate creatives and stimulate their minds that doesn’t involve environments such as free classes taught on-site, subsidized cafeterias, and company sports teams. I’m always interested in seeing peoples workspaces, even if they’re boring so please send me your workspace or work environment photos!

My old workspaces

These first two are from the large corporation I worked at. The first on was my first starting desk, then eventually I got a real workstation PC and the right hardware I needed.
CIMG1739 DLP_4033
Here is where I worked as well. Granted I was often running around with a camera at all my jobs but this is where I did editing and paperwork.
IMG_20111217_183134 IMG_20111217_183204 IMG_20111217_183310

Communication Tools

  • Posted On May 10, 2011
  • Categorized In Other
  • Written By

Collaboration on projects is one of the most important aspects of any project’s development. Some friends and I have begun working on project ideas but distance has been an issue. Much of our initial conversations where in person but when we brought in others who didn’t live quite as close we worried the same level of collaboration wouldn’t be possible. We thought that talking in person was far superior as we could make eye contact, illustrate things, use hand gestures, and everything else used in our discussions. Determined to continue our synergy we decided to take a look at some other options.

Our first thought was to start a message board that would run parallel to our discussions. A forum offers many advantages; it keeps track of everything and everyone would be able to post at their discretion. Time-zones and other time obligations wouldn’t impede on project development. We went ahead and created our own private forum and began discussions. It wasn’t long before we noticed the down-sides to the message board. Some people didn’t check them often and fell behind in discussions so when those who did check would eventually give up when no replies where being posted. The forum worked well but since our group is so small, it instead became a place where we just posted bulletins and notes from meets giving everyone access to the information; still helpful. I think the forum would have been much more successful with a larger team and if everyone was more encouraged to use it.

With the forum, we would still have meetings in person and periodic phone-calls. Phone-calls were used a lot for 1-on-1 communications but we wanted a way that we could make conference calls so that multiple people could attend meetings remotely. Enter Skype.

If you don’t know, and you probably do, Skype is a video/voice conferencing application that uses the internet to make phone calls. When using Skype-to-Skype, calls are free even when there are 3+ people talking. This quickly became a preferred method and even our 1-on-1 calls where being made on Skype. Not only where they free but the quality of Skype is fantastic. When connections are good and everyone has a decent microphone then it sounds as if they are sitting right in the room. When making 1-on-1 calls, users can use video chat too so hand gestures and other presentation aids can still be used. Conference calls using video are possible but require paid accounts.

Instant messaging also provides a huge help during development since we are able to chat with each other at our leisure. This is especially helpful when I’m already working on a project on the computer and want to talk with someone throughout the day. It also allows me to continue listening to my music. Chat can be connected through many different ways, but I use IMO along with my Facebook, Gmail, and even Skype accounts.

Google also has a great chat client but it’s most useful when using another important collaboration tool that Google provides; Google Docs. Google Docs is an online suite of applications used for word-processing, charts, and almost everything you would find in Microsoft Office. Google Docs are obviously not nearly as robust as MS Office but they’re perfect for simple word processing and they’re free. Scripts and other documents can be ‘share’ with other Google users allowing them to view and even edit the documents. Google Docs then keeps track of all changes made so that the document can be taken backwards through its revisions so nothing is ever accidentally lost! Furthermore, and possibly most important, Google Docs allows multiple people to be viewing and editing a document at once. While doing so, a chat window appears on the right so viewing users can chat while working on a document. We prefer to Skype while editing documents in Google Docs but it’s still a great feature.

Similar to Google Docs but more specific to Scripts is Adobe Story. Adobe Story is a great collaboration tool when working with scripts. It has the sharing and permissions that Google Docs has but is geared completely towards video production documents. Unfortunately this isn’t free so it’s not on the top of our list and we often convert scripts into Google Docs which reminds me of another great Google Doc feature: MS Office Word documents and other documents can be easily converted into Google Docs and back again.

Now that I’ve moved to California these collaboration tools have been invaluable. Things slowed down due to me being busy with the new job, moving, and everything else, but we’re already talking on Skype and using Google Docs many times a week.

Lunch at Pixar

  • Posted On May 6, 2011
  • Categorized In Other
  • Written By

I just joined some friends at Pixar headquarters in Emeryville CA and I must say it was a very cool experience. Not sure if I should talk about everything I got to see but I will say that working there must be a lot of fun! The place is huge, complete with tennis courts and a yoga yard. Inside there were statues of major Pixar characters and tons of people getting their grub on. I immediately noticed I was not the only guest. I looked like many people brought their families and friends in to eat lunch. This wasn’t even a ‘bring someone to lunch day‘ or anything, just the normal every day lunch. Having kids laughing in the background really made it feel like I was at Pixar. It was great. Ah and the food was fantastic and subsidized to boot!

Building Computers

  • Posted On March 2, 2011
  • Categorized In Other
  • Written By

I’ve always had a large interest in computers. Having a father in IT will do that. He always built our home PCs from scratch and about a few years ago I decided I was going to build my first computer from scratch as well.

I did tons of research on everything computers. Surprisingly it wasn’t as complicated as I expected and was actually a lot of fun. Overclocking computers is complicated (at least for me) but building them is simple. Just be sure to know what you’re doing first.

The first thing after learning how to build a computer was choosing everything I would need for my computer. I decided to build my computer around September and finished learning everything before Thanksgiving/black-Friday. Well more importantly before cyber Monday. Cyber Monday was new to me. At the time I was fairly new to buying electronics online. It’s basically the Black-Friday of online shopping and it’s the Monday following Black-Friday.

I picked out everything I wanted for my computer and made an elaborate spreadsheet that included the prices of all the components from various vendors such as tiger-direct, new-egg, and a few others. For some components I even listed several different options I would be satisfied with such as the power-supply. I chose 3 different power supplies that would all work in my computer, all about the same price. This way I could get whichever was cheapest at any point and be satisfied with it. The hardest thing and possibly the most important, was sticking to the list and not buying alternate components just because they’re on sale or just buying everything at once because I wanted to get the computer built.

When Black-Friday came, I found one or two items on my list on sale and chose to purchase them. Then I waited for Monday  Cyber Monday provided many sales and awesome savings; I think I bought about 75% of my computer that day. Some items where on sale while others were part of bundles that included instant rebates and other promotions. I then waited and as Christmas got closer, I found other deals and specials going on that allowed me to buy almost everything for my computer at discount prices including the monitors I got from Dell Outlet.

By the time my computer was finished, I had a $2,000+ computer that only cost me about $1,300 including a nice mouse and keyboard, two monitors, all high end components, and lots of freebies! Freebies where things packaged in for free as a promotion. Some of the freebies I got were an Intel water bottle, Far Cry 2 Game, and a 2GB USB Stick.

Some key things I learned while building my computer and doing research online was that it’s important to keep a computer as cool as possible. The cooler it is, the more stable it will run. Needless to say my computer has an overdose of fans. Another thing I wanted to watch out for was dust getting inside my computer. There are some creative ways to prevent dust but I decided to purchase a case with removable & washable dust guards.

 

Back up and storage!

  • Posted On January 4, 2011
  • Categorized In Other
  • Written By

I’m going through some dilemmas pertaining to storage and back-up. I have piles of digital footage that has been sitting on a single hard drive and not a day goes by I don’t think “What would I do if that drive just died”. A real nightmare. None of the files are for work or current personal projects but its still very valuable to me. My current projects are all backed up. I just have too much original footage and old projects that I want to save. I looked into archival solutions but there isn’t anything that’s economical for me. I think I’ll just have to buy two 2TB drives and mirror them. I think I can get two 2TB drives for about $200. Not bad, considering.

Great netbook for only $250!

  • Posted On December 9, 2010
  • Categorized In Other
  • Written By

Netbook Dell 101z

I’ve had this plan in the works for some time and finally decided to execute it. I use an HTC Hero and have always loved my it. Now with a custom firmware and other nifty things, it’s better than ever. Even though it’s been over a year, I’m still quite content with the phone. I did decide to look at the new phones since I was eligible for an upgrade. I was thinking about getting the HTC Evo as an upgrade just for the heck of it but that’s when I came up with this plan.

I can get a clean HTC Evo for $200 online. That’s how much I’d be paying for one from sprint AFTER waiting forever for the $100 MIR. So in my opinion, it’s a better deal even if it is used a bit (which most were still new). I looked around at what else Sprint had to offer and noticed they offer netbooks; the Dell Inspiron Mini 1012 and the 11z. The discount on these however where WAY higher than the usual phone discounts. Those averaged about $150 while the computers were closer to $300-$600 in savings. I figured why not just get myself a netbook for Christmas and if I want to get a new phone, I would spend just as much by getting it off the internet. Basically I plan to take use my contract renewal discount as best I can.

Being content with my Hero, I decided to get the netbook from sprint. Here are the Specs of the two laptops according to sprint.

Dell™ Inspiron™ Mini 10 (1012)

  • Listed at $500;Intel® Atom™ N450 (1.66 GHZ)
    • -$400 instant savings (new contract/contract renewal) -$100 Mail-in-Rebate (MiR) = $0
  • Windows® 7 Starter
  • 1 GB Memory
  • 10.1″ Widescreen SD (1024×600)
  • 250 GB hard drive
  • 3 USB 2.0, VGA, RJ45 Ethernet, 1 headphone, 1 microphone, 2 mini card slots
  • Webcam
  • Sprint’s mobile card- built in.
  • Includes 6-cell battery and power cord.

Dell™ Inspiron™ 11z

  • Listed at $650;Intel® Core™ i3-330UM
    • -$400 instant savings (new contract/contract renewal) -$100 MiR = $150
  • Windows® 7 Home Premium – 64-bit
  • 2 GB Memory, expandable to 4GB
  • 11.6″ Widescreen HD glossy WLED display with TrueLife™
  • 250 GB hard drive
  • 7-in-1 Flash memory reader supporting SD, SDHC, MMC,MMC+, xD, MS, MS Pro
  • 3 USB 2.0, VGA, RJ45 Ethernet, 1 headphone, 1 microphone, 2 mini card slots
  • Webcam
  • And of course Sprint’s mobile card- built in.
  • Includes 6-cell battery and power cord.

Now the first thing I did was compare these to what’s available from dell. I knew not to trust Sprints label of the full cost. I wanted to see how much cheaper the sprint computers would actually be.

Mini 1012

Dell still sells this ultra-portable netbook but Sprint’s starting price was a little off. The netbook is available from dell for $450 so that’s $50 less I would be saving. The netbooks specifications are identical to the one Dell still sells with one major difference, the screen’s native resolution. Dell only sells the 1012 with a resolution of 1366×768 while sprints is listed at only 1024×600. After some research, it appears that Dell did upgrade the screen on these devices. So this for me puts the savings at even less value due to the inferior screen resolution… a very important factor for me in choosing a device. Screen real-estate is everything. Other than the screen the devices are identical. They can support no more memory than what they are shipped with; 1GB. They mini offers 9.5 hours of battery life as well – a big plus in my [net]book (pun intended).

The last to mention is that the mail-in-rebate is only available for customers activating service on the device… which I would not be doing. I’ll be keeping the same plan I have and keeping my HTC Hero activated as my only device. So the mini 1012 would actually be $100 for me down from $450 and with an inferior screen; still a good deal though.

11z

When I went to compare the 11z available through dell I discovered they don’t even sell it anymore! The 11z is only available through Dell Outlet. Then I thought about the older-resolution screen on the Mini 1012; I’ll bet dell had tons of these older devices (previous generation) sitting around since they’re no longer sold as they’ve become replaced by newer versions of each product. Dell then probably prepared to take the mass amounts of these devices to their Outlet but Sprint bought them instead. Buying in bulk at a huge discount probably so both Sprint and Dell benefited from this deal. Then Sprint uses them as a promotional items for their 3G & 4G mobile broadband plans. The devices just became available less than a month ago so these are not old devices still sitting in Sprints device catalog. No, these are Sprint’s big thing as of last month and to anyone not doing their research, a seemingly great deal on a new netbook.

Ok back to the 11z. Taking into consideration that the 11z is obsolete and only available through the Dell Outlet, I continued to compare it to Sprints offer. Since the device is only available in the Outlet, I was unable to find an exact match to compare prices, so I chose a device identical with the exceptions that the Outlet one had a larger hard-drive and different processor. The device is listed at $400 with a larger hard-drive. So this greatly takes down the amount of savings on the 11z from Sprint. Since I would not be getting the $100 MiR from activations, I would be paying $250 for a $400 netbook and I would be getting a smaller hard-drive.

This wasn’t anything to rave about in my opinion. I decided to compare the processors. I couldn’t find the 11z in Dell Outlet with the Intel® Core™ i3-330UM that Sprint listed in the 11z’s specs.  In fact, I couldn’t find the 11z available anywhere with that processor. I did some research and some people speculate that Dell specially made the 11z with the upgraded processor for Sprint which confused me since the 11z is outdated and upgrading to the Intel® Core™ i3-330UM from the standard stocked processor (such as the ones available in the 11z on Dell outlet) would require a major overhaul of the netbook as the processors are not from the same chipset and Sprint’s 11z’s i3 processor uses DDR3 while Dells Pentium uses DDR2. This was a little confusing and I could not find any information anywhere about the Sprint specific 11z. I read a bit about the i3 however and it turns out that this processor is worlds better than the one that dell offered in the 11z meaning that the savings from Sprint on the 11z just went back up. The i3 in Sprint’s 11z offers many benefits including lower power consumption. This is all assuming Sprint is being accurate.

One HORRIBLE thing I’ve read over and over across ALL reviews of the 11z was that the touchpad mouse on the 11z is disastrous. The left and right clicks are integrated into the pad rather than being hard buttons and everyone says they work poorly and cause endless frustration. This did scare me a bit but most of the time I would probably be using a Bluetooth mouse. It would be nice to be able to rely on the touch pad for situations when needed but heavy use sounded like it was a burden.

Research

The last thing I want to mention before I continue is my research with sprint on my eligibility for getting the device. Since I would be using my ‘contract renewal discount’ to get a netbook instead of a phone, I was worried there would be some confusion. I wanted to make sure I was able to do this without activating service on the netbook. I want to keep my current plan on my current device, the HTC Hero.

The first representative that I spoke with at Sprint said that this was not possible but as with most customer service places, I knew that a different person may have a different outcome. Rather than call back and hope for someone else I just tried to push for what I wanted but I remained very respectful and polite… getting angry and aggressive usually pays off less in the end. Sometimes this is hard when the person you’re speaking with only speaks good English when reading the script that they’ve read a thousand times.

She decided to get her supervisor and ask him what he thinks and to my surprise, he said it was fine! I was just investigating so I didn’t place the order at that time but at least now I knew it was possible. The Sprint lady came back on the phone and told me that the device would be unable to connect to the internet without Sprint’s service. I know a decent amount about computers so I asked her “Well sure I wouldn’t have access to mobile broadband if I don’t pay for it but the device has WiFi and that will surely work just like any other netbook/laptop.” So for my purposes, it was just as good as getting it from Dell; without service attached. The Representative then replied that Sprint’s device was installed inside the computer and activation was required before the device would be able to connect to the internet. I argued (kindly) with her for a while and knew that she was again, just reading from a script and knew little about netbooks/laptops. She transferred me to a male representative who spoke better English and spoke with confidence when telling me the same thing the lady previous to him did.

(Paraphrasing) [blockquote] ‘The device will not be able to connect without first activating the sprint software on the device. This software requires sprint service. Yadda yadda yadda’[/blockquote] . I still argued because how could they offer a laptop/netbook that ONLY offers internet access with Sprints data service activated. Even my old inactivated Verizon smart phone can still be turned on and connected to my WiFi network. After hearing both representatives tell me it wasn’t possible I began to worry that MAYBE Sprint DID put something crazy on the laptop that locks everything down when their service activation is not present. Again I thought I would still be able to just install Windows 7 from scratch and be fine… unless it was a hardware change they made. So in my worried state I attempted to call Dell and get some information. It took HOURS. No, literally; HOURS to go from one poor English speaking rep to another only to get to a guy in the end who told me ‘If you bought it from sprint you need to talk to them, only they can help you.’ Fantastic. I called some friends of mine who are real into computers to see that they thought and they all agreed with my theory that the WiFi should work fine.

I decided I would take the risk and spend the money. I decided to spend the little bit extra on the 11z instead of getting the Mini 1012, total price being $250. I was less concerned about total battery life and opted to get much more power and a better screen. The 11z’s screen is an 11.6″ 1366 x 768 HD TLF WLED. The 11z is also upgradable to 4BG of memory over the Mini 1012’s shipped and maximum memory of 1GB.

I ordered the laptop late Monday night of this week and they said to expect it by Friday. I actually received it Wednesday morning (yesterday), not bad! I guess they ship all devices out via overnight since usually they’re shipping phones that people need to start using.

New Laptop – Big Surprise

I start to open up the laptop and discover a huge surprise…

Sprint had shipped me a Dell Inspiron M101z – Dell’s successor device to the 11z. I immediately looked at the stats and compared them to the 11z from Dell and the 11z from sprint. The M101z from Dell is ONLY available with an AMD chip but the M101z that Sprint sent me actually had the Intel i3-330m that Sprint listed on their website with the 11z (Obviously they poorly updated their site). Even in the M101z the i3-330m is still a superior chip and it’s only available in the Sprint version of the netbook. So with the i3 processor the laptop naturally came with DDR3 memory; 2GB just as Sprints website advertised even though it was advertised with the 11z. The great thing here however is that the M101z that Sprint sent me is upgradable to 8GB instead of the correctly advertised max 4GB of the 11z!

There are other major improvements in the M101z over the 11z such as better battery life, improved speakers, improved integrated graphics card , 3 USB ports instead of 2 , and a MUCH better touchpad! I was so happy to see that they when back to the standard touchpad, fixing something almost every review of the 11z complained about. Things that remain the same in the M101z from the 11z are the screen size and resolution, hard drive, webcam, SD Card slot, and the HDMI port.

To conclude the early rant on the skeptical WiFi… it works fine. Played with some settings and got connected to my WiFi network within minutes.

So all in all, I took a small risk and it played out really well. I got a great netbook (highly rated) at a great price. For $60 bucks (a year later) I put 8GB of memory in it. I’m still really confused about what Sprint had going on with their website. Why were they advertising the wrong netbook? Or did they run out of the 11z and I got lucky and they sent me an M101z? That couldn’t be the case because they correctly advertised the processor that the 11z was never available with. In fact… looking back at Sprints website right now … Their advertisement for the Dell 11z has a picture of the M101z! They really screwed up here. This means they probably ARE offering the Dell M101z but some of their specs are wrong such as they say the device is upgradeable to 4GB when it’s actually 8GB! If they want to promote this promotion (heh) then they should be advertising the right product! It’s only beneficial to them! Unless they advertise it as the 11z so that consumers cannot find the original price easily or so that they can’t easily find it sold from Dell but that seems sketchy.

Final Note, the only thing different from getting the laptop from sprint is that you cannot choose your color. I wanted standard black anyway so this worked out for me and besides, if a $400 discount off a $650 netbook isn’t enough to compensate for the lack of color option then I don’t know what is.

Since the advertised 11z was all screwed up, maybe the 1012 will actually have the newer/upgraded screen. Something to consider!

Halloween Carving Contest!

  • Posted On October 24, 2010
  • Categorized In Other
  • Written By

DeviantArt is hosting a international carving contest. Since the contest is international, the carvings are not limited to pumpkins. It sounds like fun so yesterday I bought a bunch of  ‘carving media’ and once I get some designs down (later today) I’ll  begin carving!

What I’ve got:

  • WatermelonsWork Area for Pumpkin Carving
  • Pumpkins
  • Green apples
  • Red apples
  • Pears
  • Oranges
  • Galas
  • Honeydews

Bought all these thinking I’d have more time but I think I’ll only be carving the pumpkin.

Tools:

  • Lots of Knives
  • Marking Pens
  • Exacto Blades
  • Dremel
  • Wood Carving Tools
  • Large Spoons

Not sure what I’m going to carve, but I’ll probably carve a design catering to the DA community, hopefully increasing the views.

 

 

 

Finished:

So I decided to do a town under attack  by a tentacle monster! The design uses both sides of the pumpkin creating a foreground and background. Turned out OK but the front of the pumpkin was aging quicker than I could carve the back out so I wasn’t able to get a picture of the finished carving with both parts at their best.

 

 

Another Pumpkin I did:

Carving Totoro Glow Totoro in Dark

(that hair…)