The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Monday, January 31, 2000

a visit to Obnoxico, Inc.

After lunch, Mark and I headed over to WalMart to kill some time (neither one of us had to be at work today).

“You realize,” Mark said, “that there are only four different layouts for WalMarts?”

“Easier to franchise,” I said. “Sign here, and pick layouts one, two, three or four.”

“And you realize that whenever one of these go up, the local Mom-n-Pop shops go out of business,” said Mark.

“Of course,” I replied (and yes, we did actually have this conversation), “How else can they compete with large volume cheaply made merchandise from Asia? And if a store in an area is not that profitable, who cares? The rest of the collective can support a non-profiting store for a while.”

Really, I hear these stories about communities that try to make WalMarts illegal, or otherwise make it very difficult for them to open up stores. But really, if a community really cared enough to keep a WalMart out, then the community as a whole should just boycott the store. If no one goes to WalMarts, then it brings in no money and in due time it will shut down.

Simple economics. Yet why the furvor and laws? Because a select few people think they know better than the community.

Sure, what WalMart does isn't nice. And I tend to prefer local stores over larger chains anyway. But on the flip side, for large volume cheaply made merchandise from Asia and 24-hour access, you really can't beat WalMart. And my schedule that is soemthing to keep in mind.

Although the selection in the entertainment area is pretty spotty. Unless you like Brittany Spheres or the movie “Joan of Arc” (man did that hit the video stores fast) you don't have much choice.

But they do sell Nerf guns. Of which Mark bought one for work.


After lunch and killing some time at Walmart, Mark and I headed to Office Depot to check to see if they had any webcams.

After the experiments I did with my digital camera and using it as a webcam, Mark got the itch to do something similar. Like me, he is Microsoft free.

And that's the main problem. Most new webcams are now USB based, and the USB support for Linux is spotty at best, and with that, only with the latest development kernels. Mark and I are still running Linux 2.0 kernels (why fix it when it isn't broken?).

And the one webcam that isn't USB based, the Logitech Quickcam VC, doesn't have Linux drivers—nor is Logitech being generous with programming informtation; they're downright hostile and no information is available. The older Connectix ones (Logitech bought Connectix) are supported under Linux.

There doesn't seem to be any reason why Logitech should keep this information under wraps, unless:

  1. Logitech doesn't want others to know just how lousy the hardware is.
  2. Logitech is getting presure from some company on high not to release information that would allow other competing operating systems to use the hardware (no names, but its initials are <cough>Microsoft<cough>—seriously, many companies are afraid of doing anything which might anger the Redmond giant and giving any OS competitors any slight edge might anger them).
  3. Logitech management (or rather, the lawyers) are relunctant to release anything which might be considered Intellectual Property.

I suspect the truth is “all of the above” to some degree.

Who owns who?

In trying to find the official Nerf site, I obviously tried Imagine my surprise when I ended up at Hasbro Interactive | Atari!

And according to the Nerf Gun FAQ, there is no official Nerf site.



I worked some more on the digital camera I have. The problem is one of focus. Or rather, the lack thereof.

The camera is a fixed-focus camera and you have to take the unit practically apart to refocus it. The lens assembly consists of two cylinders, one that slides inside another, with a screw/spring assembly on one side to adjust the position of the inner cylinder, which houses the lens, against the outer cylinder, which attaches to the mount on which the CCD rests.

When last I left it, I thought that since the screw/spring assembly was on one side, when tightened, one side was pulled in closer than the other side, thus leading to pictures that were half focused. My thought was to remove the screw/spring assembly, file down the end of the outter cylinder, allowing the inner one to adjust closer, and use some glue to hold it in place.

No avail.

During the machinations, I removed the blue filter that sits above the CCD. Interesting results. Two exceedingly blurry pictures that I find rather amusing:

Rhspdody in Red Rhapsody in Peace

Okay, so I'm not getting anywhere. I dig up the screw/spring assembly (I took the thing off back last November). The glue thing wasn't working (and I didn't have the right glue anyway, so it wasn't holding very well) so I reattached the screw/spring assembly minus one small wire piece that seemed to work against the spring (go figure).

So, with CCD filter, and newly reassembled cylinder assembly back in place, a few tweaks and finally success! (I'm holding a small Phillips screw driver in my mouth, and I'm hold up my hand to distinquish this photo from the 21 other ones I took)

Obligatory Picture

[The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades]

Obligatory Contact Info

Obligatory Feeds

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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