Sunday, January 20, 2008

Slingplayer on Linux: Blah

So, I've gotten Slingplayer to run on Debian Linux, thanks to various how-to guides.

Previously, I got it to run on my Asus Eee laptop using the same guides. The audio and video quality were crap, though. At the time, I figured, oh well, the Eee just doesn't have enough horsepower to run Slingplayer under Wine.

But, my Debian desktop is much faster, and it still sucks:
  • Video: The video quality is awful, though potentially tolerable considering this is all a hack.
  • Audio: Fail, fail, fail. The audio skips constantly, gets stuck if you resize a window, and randomly will spew static for many seconds at a time.
Does anybody have Slingplayer working ... acceptably ... on Linux? Well enough that you could watch a whole half-hour television program?

As far as my tries at it, no matter what I run it on and how I configure it, it just blows.

Sling Media, I'm bummed. Where's the Linux client that Slingplayer should've had from day one?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Congress Hotel Zoning Change Rejected

Over here, Chicagoist reports on the Congress Hotel's request for a zoning variance to add additional floors. The Chicago Plan Commission denied the request.

I used to stay there quite a bit, long before I moved to Chicago (and long before the strike). It was a neat old hotel, if a bit worn around the edges. It was affordable, and was in a great location. It was a lot of fun to stay there, and it was neat to see all the amazing architectural details in that age of building (two buildings, actually, if I remember correctly).

After I started hearing about the strike, a few years ago, and reading up on it, I was bummed out to learn that the hotel owners really seemed to be sticking it to their union employees. I don't necessarily consider myself pro-union, but the hotel doesn't seem to be playing fair and what they've offered their employees (wage cuts?) is lame. So, I supported the strike by never again staying at the Congress.

The hotel has left these employees on strike for more than five years. I think the hotel has suffered, and it's sad to hear tales about the hotel getting more and more run down over time. Sad.

Something definitely needs to change. Allowing the current owners to expand the hotel doesn't seem like the right answer, and I'm glad their request was rejected.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tas Restaurant Update

Tas, the new restaurant going in the Cafe Suron space, received a positive nod from alderman Joe Moore this week.

It's not quite accurate to say Joe approved a liquor license for Tas, since it's not his call, but in an email blast today, he does indicate that he's OK with it and will support an incidental liquor license.

According to Joe Moore, the new owner, Aykut Sinanoglu, brings 22 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry, having most recently served as the corporate manger for the Chicago-based da Vinci Restaurant Group, overseeing its six restaurants.

Neither my girlfriend or I were able to find any other info on Mr. Sinanoglu's previous involvement in the restaurant industry, but now that we know about the connection to da Vinci Restaurant Group, perhaps more info can be found.

The restaurant, at 1146 W. Pratt, intends to be open seven days a week from 5 p.m. until 10 or 11 p.m, as well as serving brunch on weekends. The owner hopes to open this spring.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fun with Google: What time is it?

My friend Mickey pointed out a neat trick. Wondering what time it is in a far away city or state?

Type "(place) time" into Google, and it'll tell you.

Type in California time and it'll tell you what time it is in California.

Type in London time and it'll tell you what time it is in London in the UK.

Neat!

Blago Broke It

"Blago Broke It" is what I'll be saying next week, when all the buses go away.

OK, not *all* the buses, just the ones I use to get downtown, to go out to eat, to get to the Metra, etc.

All because Blago (A) waited until the last minute, and (B) decided to bung it all up by adding in this "seniors get free rides" stuff that nobody asked for and nobody wants.

Thanks, Governor Press Release.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Transit: Free Rides are a Bad Idea

As mentioned over here. I'm in full agreement; free fares for seniors are an awful idea. If implemented, it'll be ripe for abuse. People will steal cards, you'll never know exactly who's allowed to use one by looking at somebody, etc.

I'm not against reduced fares, but I do think it's a distraction, a ploy by Blago to try to require it as a condition of proper CTA funding. (Note that I don't think of this as a "bailout" -- that would imply the CTA screwed up. They didn't. It's Blago and the legislature who are falling down on the job, here.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Network Solutions Domain Tasting

The blogs and media are abuzz; Network Solutions (NSI) appears to be snatching up domain names. If as described, this is a sort of domain "tasting," letting a registrar have access to a domain without paying for it, for a short period of time. For a multitude of reasons, domain tasting is lame.

I've tested it myself and confirmed that they're doing this. On January 8th, I looked up a non-existing domain on Network Solutions website: nuclearnugget.com. (I picked a name not likely to be registered.) I never bought (registered) the domain. The NSI website said it was not in use, and available for purchase.

I check WHOIS today, and find that the domain is now registered! What?!

Domain Name: NUCLEARNUGGET.COM
Registrar: NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC.
Whois Server: whois.networksolutions.com
Referral URL: http://www.networksolutions.com
Name Server: NS1.RESERVEDDOMAINNAME.COM
Name Server: NS2.RESERVEDDOMAINNAME.COM
Status: ok
Updated Date: 08-jan-2008
Creation Date: 08-jan-2008
Expiration Date: 08-jan-2009

The expiration date is set for a year. Let's hope that's not the case; we'll see when it actually expires.

This sucks. It looks like a bad faith effort on NSI's part to force you into buying a domain name through them, if you happen to look it up through them. Let's say my friend found an unused domain via NSI's website, and wanted me to purchase it. I could only purchase it with NSI as the registrar. I couldn't go to Joker.com, GoDaddy, or anybody else I wanted to. NSI has a poor reputation among many geeks for overcharging for domain registrations and trying to sell you extra services; I'd never in my right mind choose to register a domain with them. But if I want nuclearnugget.com? I have no other choice. I either have to buy it from them, or wait and hope it expires, and doesn't get snapped up by a domain speculator. If I went to some other registrar, like GoDaddy, and tried to register the domain, it would not show up as available, as it looks as though it's owned by NSI.

Below is the full registration information that showed up in WHOIS.

Registrant:
This Domain is available at NetworkSolutions.com
13681 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 300
HERNDON, VA 20171
US

Domain Name: NUCLEARNUGGET.COM

------------------------------------------------------------------------
This Domain is Available - Register it Now!
600,000 domain names are registered daily! Don't delay; there's no guarantee
that a domain name you see today will still be here tomorrow!
Register it Now at www.NetworkSolutions.com.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
Network Solutions, LLC [email protected]
13681 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 300
HERNDON, VA 20171
US
1-888-642-9675 fax: 571-434-4620

Record expires on 08-Jan-2009.
Record created on 08-Jan-2008.
Database last updated on 10-Jan-2008 12:44:08 EST.

Domain servers in listed order:

ns1.reserveddomainname.com 205.178.190.55
ns2.reserveddomainname.com 205.178.189.55

Monday, January 7, 2008

Downtown Adventure: Wildfire

Kate and I went downtown for dinner last night. We went to Wildfire, which is a chain of steak restaurants. I'm familiar with them, as I'm from Minneapolis, and there is one located there, out in the suburbs near where I used to work.

We've been to this one before, and enjoyed it. Last night was really good, too. The service was excellent, and it was easy to find a bottle of wine that I recognized and knew we'd like.

I had the horseradish crusted filet mignon, which was wrapped in bacon and topped with a sort-of baked horseradish crust. The crust was excellent. Yummy, flavored of horseradish, but not overpowering. It came with creamy horseradish on the side, if you wanted it spicier. (I ended up using most of it on my potatoes instead.)

Kate had a trio of filet slices, each with a different crust. One bearnaise, one mushroom, and one blue cheese. I think she liked the mushroom one the best. She found the bearnaise one, in particular, to be a bit overwhelming flavored with too much tarragon.

Overall, we were mostly happy with our experience. And, it's a fair bit cheaper than some of the other fancy steak places in town. However, I do think you get what you pay for. If you're looking for the absolute best cut of meat -- this is not the place for it. Both Kate and I were surprised to have found a bit of gristle and/or marbling in what was supposed to be high end filet mignon.

If you're not the snobbiest of steak snobs, and you like the idea of a blue cheese or horseradish crust on your steak, it's worth a try. We'd likely go back, though this definitely doesn't count as our fanciest steak adventure.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

On the Awesome Level of Discourse...

...in our [Rogers Park neighborhood] blogland community.

As I mentioned previously, Craig Gernhardt asks"Has Joe Moore created a hate in Rogers Park towards military personal?" No word from Joe on whether or not he has stopped beating his wife. However, in the mean time, I'm sure if a gnat farts in the Amazon rain forest, Craig will help us to understand how it's the fault of the local political machine.

As a follow up, Thomas Westgard takes Craig to task for publishing the Grodner police report with the names and personal information of witnesses left intact. Makes sense. Until the bit where Tom calls Craig "an irresponsible drunk."

I took issue with that in comments, and was rewarded with this from Tom: "Oh, now I think I understand your point, Al. You're saying that I should have gone after Craig on the point about the witnesses, but the attack on his drinking habits was gratuitous."

Tom agrees. "That might be true," he says, but then he goes on to call me a "lackey" because I dared to raise the issue. As he seems to have misused the word, I'm not quite sure what he actually meant.

Tom and Craig have a strange, synergistic relationship.

On another note, maybe I should try to ride the #96 bus one last time before it disappears in the doomsday scenario. I moved here from Minneapolis, which is a very, very small town as far as public transit is concerned. They don't have anything like the El, Metra, or the amazingly broad and wide bus coverage that we are lucky to have here in Chicago. I love it, as it has meant that I've had to drive barely once every few weeks, instead of daily, like I did in Minneapolis. And here we are, to the point where Illinois is about to throw away big chunks of the Chicago transit system. It's just amazing and sad. Mass transit is one of the things that makes the Chicago area special, and apparently not enough people realize it.


(ETA: This content was from my old Rogers Park neighborhood blog, now rolled into this one main blog.)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Cafe Suron Space; Liquor License

The space currently occupied by Cafe Suron will soon be replaced by a restaurant called Tas. The new owner, Aykut Sinanoglu, is looking for community support for a liquor license.

Joe Moore has called a community meeting to be held at Cafe Suron on Monday, January 7th, at 7:00 pm. Time permitting, I think I'll make it over there and listen in.

I'm undecided as to whether or not I'd like to see this place have a liquor license. I could be for it, as it always bummed us out that Suron was a BYOB. But it depends on how well the place is run, and I have no info on the new owner.

We liked Cafe Suron -- but -- we haven't been there for more than a year, because the service has just been unbelievably, astoundingly awful on every visit. Great food, but we got tired of waiting an hour for it and having wait staff feed us bologna about the food being up "any second now."

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Military Hating Lawyer Keys Marines Car

Found this on a number of blogs, and it's worth linking to: Rogers Park lawyer Jay R. Grodner thought it would be keen to key Marine Sgt Mike McNulty's car. Over a bad parking job or not, hard to say, but if you believe what you read (and I do), sounds like Grodner ran off at the mouth with anti-military sentiment. Amazingly, McNulty stayed calm -- instead of beating the snot out of the guy, he called the cops and got him arrested. Good for him!

I'm not for the war in Iraq, but I do support people in uniform. They've got tough jobs, and they deserve our respect. This couldn't have been more un-called for.

There's a tinfoil hat aspect to the coverage from Craig Gernhardt's "Broken Heart" blog -- Craig manages to make the post about Joe Moore:

One of our Anti-war Alderman's constituents damages a military man's vehicle. This should really be interesting. Jay Grodner, living in a ward under the control of Joe Moore, a known anti-military politician, defaces a military mans vehicle. Is this what all military personal can expect when venturing into Joe Moore country? Has Joe Moore created a hate in Rogers Park towards military personal?

Multiple people replied with comments recommending sanity; restraint; this is bad on its own even though it has nothing to do with Joe Moore. "We have quite enough to lay at Moore's doorstep if we stick strictly to the truth, so let's stick to the truth, and to rational arguments," said one commenter. "How on earth does this have anything to do with Joe Moore?" asks another. "Because he got himself involve in the anti-war rhetoric," responds Craig.

Craig goes on to take another commenter to task for not using his full name. The commenter, Dave Lowitzki, clarifies who he is, and is accused by Craig of being a "shill for Joe More on this blog." He manages to slam Dave for having a college education, among other things. He tells Dave to go similarly reprimand the Second City Cop blog since they covered the story as well (strange, considering they made no mention of Joe Moore).

Craig responded to my questioning by pointing out that Joe Moore has tried to shut Craig's blog down before, and that he hasn't been sued by Joe yet (?). I was then invited to take my "punk ass" elsewhere. Heh.

I like Craig's blog. It's very insightful -- sometimes. The problem is, everything he writes about seems to have to be filtered through his personal vendettas. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Pulling Joe Moore into the picture here makes for a poor fit, and then defending it at all costs makes Craig look like he's gone off the deep end.

I don't know a ton about Joe Moore, but from what I do know, I'm not a huge fan. I'd like to learn more about the politics of our neighborhood, to be better informed. This is why I read the blogs. But, when people go off the rails, reaching for conspiracies that don't exist, it makes it hard to trust what they say; it makes it hard to tell fact from fiction.

Craig takes it really personal when somebody challenges something he says. I'm counting the seconds until either he deletes that post, my comments, or bans me from the blog.