Thanksgiving Family Geekery

While catching up on post-Thanksgiving blog reading, I got this hare-brained idea to list all the geek tools I used or witnessed at the Big Family Gathering at my brother’s house in the Las Vegas area. It’s a fitting follow up to my earlier post about the Tech Support Generation and Fixing Family Computers for the Holidays. (note: no, I didn’t fix any computers. All the geekery was play, not problemsolving)

GeekTools Doc M and I brought: Powerbooks. His work one and personal one (on which I have an account). Cameras: his, mine, battery charger, extra flash memory cards. Zoom lens (brought but not used). Flash memory card reader.

I brought the MiniDisc recorder and a disk on which I’d recorded some speech, which I needed to transcribe. Began transcribing on home computer, but put file in Docs To Go to continue on the Palm. Did that in the car using my Palm and an infrared keyboard. Nice, compact. Slick.

Before we left for Las Vegas, I stayed up late burning a set of Audio CDs from the recordings I made of my Grandpa when I was there in January 2000. [some background here] Burned them to ultra-high-quality MAM-A Gold (Formerly Mitsui Gold) CD-R. Imported from old Audio CD into ITunes as loss-less AIFF, created titles for tracks and then burned onto new CDs as Audio CD (tip: slower burn speed is good for RedBookAudio) Stumbled upon iTunes’ label-printing feature. Tho iTunes is cross-platform, the printing is MacOS only. 6 CDs total, to bring along, and to go home with one family member. Now that I’ve got it all set up, I can reproduce more.

And that’s just our personal techno stuff, without going into the various tech gadgetry used by my other family members.

(we sibs number 5 kids, I am #3, all others are brothers)
Brothers 1, 2, 4: PC/Windows platform
Brother 5, self, Dad & Mom: MacOS platform.

We arrived at Brother 1’s house, and found Brother 5 fiddling with his powerbook and digital projector. He set up the projector on a high ledge in the kitchen so it could throw the image onto opposite wall in cathedral-ceiling’d dining/family room (computer went atop fridge to be close to projector). We watched DVDs that way (sound came in multimedia speakers set on floor of wall where projection was so that sound “emerged” from image. Speaker wire taped to floor.) When not watching DVDs, Bro 5 projected iPhoto slide shows of previous family gatherings.

It’s no surprise that Bro5 tends to collect the contents of siblings’ digital cameras, too. I hooked up Doc M’s Flash memory card reader (firewire) to Bro 5’s powerbook. Doc M, Bro 5 and I all have different models of Nikon Coolpix cameras. We dumped my camera’s contents onto his powerbook; he used flash reader to dump his own pictures. Which we watched. Laughed at. commented on. At 4 seconds per image, shouting out spur-of-the-moment captions was great fun. Bro 1’s next door neighbors wondered what was going on, though. A coupla pictures that elicited pirate-like “Arrrrrrrrr!” shouts made them wonder, well, what exactly we were doing on Thanksgiving. Forgive us, dear neighbors. We are 16 in number, and enthusiastic at that.

Bro 4 has a different digital camera model. He asked, “Will your reader work with my camera card?” We figured out it wasn’t Flash Memory. “No. But do you have a USB cable for your camera?” “Yes.” “Okay, then that’ll work. Mac is Plug and Play!” Hooked up. Plugged in. iPhoto and MacOS X are *so* automatic. Watched Bro 4’s pictures, too.

Brother 4’s kids watched a DVD on 4’s laptop computer, too. Bro 4 brought DVds for viewing. Shaolin Wheel of Life (a live theatrical performance of the origins of Shaolin martial arts, which we called Cirque du Shaolin), or our Thanksgiving Rave movie projected onto the wall during Thanksgiving dinner. (Also viewed: Best In Show, Revenge of the Pink Panther).

In the spirit of meta-moments (watching what we just did), we loaded up pictures we’d just taken and watched them in slide shows.

While looking through the Friday sales ads (Fry’s electronics! oh boy!), Brother 2 mentioned that he wanted to get a notebook computer. What did we (Doc M and I) recommend? “Uh, get a Mac. They’re more stable on the notebook end than the others. Well, okay, at least go to your nearest Apple Store and try ’em out before you buy anything.” Then I said, “Well, there’s something else out there for PC platform. A tablet PC. You can write right on it. I don’t know tons about it, but Scoble does. Let me go to his web site.” I whip out Doc M’s personal powerbook, log into my account, set it up to access Bro 1’s WiFi network, and find Scoble’s site. Bro 2: “Is that wireless?” “Yep! We’re surfing the web! Isn’t it cool?” Then did a Google search for Scoble and Tablet PC and came up with this post with Tablet PC comparison charts. Told about signing Scoble’s tablet PC, said it *might* be the thing for him. “By the way, have you seen this browser, Firefox?” “No.” “It’s very cool. See how I’m loading up new links into new tabs? You gotta get it. Once you do tabbed browsing, there’s no going back.” (I forgot to mention that stuff about no popups. I have forgotten the hell that is pop-up windows and all that crap.) I left him to surf around and do his research, and did some cooking.

(Come to think of it, I wonder if Bro 2 asked either Bro 1 or 4 about Windows laptops, seeing as how each of them have one.)

While I cooked, and referred to the directions in a photocopied recipe (three pages are lighter than a 200-page hardbound book), my mother said, “Did you get that recipe from the ‘Net?” “No, but I do get recipes from the net.” “Would you find a recipe for me for baking clay? I know it contains flour, salt, and oil…”

I did another bout of transcribing using the Palm/Keyboard/MiniDisc. Someone asked me if that Palm was wireless and communicated with the ‘Net. No. It just communicates with the keyboard wirelessly.

I overheard Bros 1 and 4 talking databases. Bro 1: “Do you know how to set up an Access database?” “Well, I do my stuff in Excel, mostly….” “I need to set up a database for real estate listings and stuff…” and Brother 1 described what he wanted to do.

So that’s the Geekery this Thanksgiving. In our pre-dinner time of giving thanks, we all mentioned many things—being alive, being healthy, the whole family gathered together. No one offered thanks for the way that our gadgets played nicely together, as we siblings have (by now) learned to do.