Delay of Analog TV Shut-off

Last night the Senate passed a bill to delay the shut-off of over-the-air analog TV from February 17 to June 12, 2009. The Obama administration had urged the delay, saying that many consumers are not ready.

Nielsena said last week that more than 6.5 million U.S. households are not prepared and could see their television sets go dark next month.

The House might not immediately pass the Senate’s version of the bill, which does not specify how the costs of a delay would be covered. The House could add its own provisions, which would require further Senate action. It could also waive budget rules and seek funds in the stimulus package. Still, it looks like the House will pass some bill that will delay the shut-off until June 12.

See our previous post on Digital TV Transition to see if you might be affected by this transition. Or go to the government’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) site for more info and your free $40 voucher for a digital TV converter.

UPDATE: Despite the unanimous vote by the US Senate to delay the Feb. 17 deadline to transition to digital television, the changeover will proceed as planned after a vote Wednesday by the House of Representatives.

It is unclear if this permanently kills the delay. With less than three weeks untill the planned analog shut-off, the window is almost over for a delay. The television stations need time to make preparations so unless something else happens this week, I now expect the Feb 17 transition to happen.

UPDATE 2: Today (February 4, 2009) the House of Representatives voted again and this time passed the delay of the analog shut-off until June 12, 2009. Now President Obama will sign the delay into law.

Down & Up Worm Worst Ever

Over the last few months, the “Down and Up” worm, also known as “Conficker” has infected an estimated 6% of all PCs worldwide. The concern is what the authors will now do with all these compromised systems. They could ask for credit card information as the bogus Antivirus 2009 does. They could use the computers to attack and demand money from websites through denial of service (DOS) attacks. No one knows yet what the intentions of the authors are.

It is considered the most professional and pernicious worm attack that researchers have yet seen. It effects all versions of Windows. As a worm, it does not require any user action for the computer to be compromised. The machine must just not be recently patched.

Download the Malicious Software Removal Tool (also available in Windows Updates) in order to protect your computer or to possibly get rid of the worm (most people who have it do not know). Then you can feel comfortable that your computer is owned by you and not by the bad guys.

MacBook as your Desktop

It used to be you needed both a laptop for travel and a desktop for more power. But nowadays laptops are a lot more powerful than they used to be and the cream of the crop are the MacBooks. With an external monitor, keyboard, mouse, and usb hub, you can easily switch from laptop mode to desktop mode with any MacBook by just plugging in 2 cables.

External Monitor

You can get an excellent big screen LCD for a lot cheaper than you used to.  You can hook it up to your MacBook, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air with a DVI adapter and the exact adapter varies based on your model.  The original MacBook Air was nice enough to come with this adapter.  The new Airs and MacBooks do not so they’ll cost you an extra $30.  One of the best value monitors you can get is the Acer V223-WBD 22″ LCD (pictured above with MacBook Air).  Macs are smart when it comes to detecting external monitors so you can just plug in and the new monitor should almost immediately become an extended screen once powered on.  When you unplug, the Mac is similarly smart and goes back to single screen mode.

Keyboard and Mouse

Since we’re talking about Macs, the best keyboard to go with is the slim Apple Keyboard.  Pretty much any usb mouse will do but I highly recommend the Logitech MX518 Mouse. It is technically a gaming mouse but I just love it for the precision and extra buttons on the side that can be setup to quickly access expose.


A terrific USB hub is the D-Link 7-port USB hub.  7 ports may sound like a lot but with a keyboard, mouse, ipod/iphone cable, and external hard drive, you’re already mostly full.  With the hub, all your USB devices are plugged into this and then you just have to plug in one USB cable to your MacBook.

External Hard Drive

One area where laptops are still greatly lacking is hard drive space.  If you don’t have much in iTunes or iPhoto, you might be fine with just a 80-250GB laptop hard drive.  If you need more space, you’ll need to get an external drive such as the Western Digital 750GB My Book.  To move your iPhoto Library to your external drive, copy the “iPhoto Library” file from your Pictures directory to your external drive.  The next time you start iPhoto, hold down the option key and you’ll be given a choice to select where your iPhoto Library is.  Once you select the library on the external drive, you won’t have to hold down option again.  The only downside is you will need your external drive hooked up to see the library.  Similarly, you can copy your Music directory to the external drive and then open iTunes preferences and go to the Advanced tab.  There you can change the iTunes Music folder location to point to your external drive Music directory.  You should only do these things if you need to.  Often you might just have to move just iPhoto or just iTunes based on your usage.

Time Machine

If you plan to use Time Machine, which we recommend, you should consider partitioning your external drive into 2 partitions using Disk Utility which can be found in the Utilities directory under Applications.  Select your drive on the left of Disk Utility and then select the Partition tab.  You can slide the separator up and down to adjust the partition sizes.  We recommend giving yourself room to grow for your data such as iPhoto and iTunes and then leave whatever else for Time Machine to utilize.  When you are happy with your settings, click Apply.  You can then setup Time Machine to use 1 partition and put your iPhoto and iTunes data on the other.  The reason you need to setup 2 partitions is because Time Machine will continue to grow until it’s partition is full so you need to ensure your data has a separate area to grow.


With a little planning, you can have all the benefits of a laptop and a desktop with just one laptop.  Just plug in a USB cable to activate all your USB devices.  Plug in your external monitor to use your desktop sized LCD.  These principles can also be applied to a Linux or Windows laptop although not with such ease.  The performance of the MacBook line is what makes them ideal candidates for desktop-power uses such as photo editing.  If you have a MacBook, you likely don’t need a desktop and just buying an external LCD is a very cheap desktop solution.

CNN to create 3D Inauguration Image

If you are going to the inauguration, you can take pictures (under 10MB in size) of the event and send them to

CNN will then use Microsoft’s PhotoSynth software to create a massive 3D image. It will be interesting to see how well it works, especially since most of the event will be covered with people. Since the people move, it’s not clear how well the software will be able to match images up. But PhotoSynth has created great 3D experiences in other locations.

UPDATE: See the results of CNN’s PhotoSynth project at CNN’s The Moment site.

Presidential Inauguration

The Presidential Inauguration of Barak Obama on January 20th is expected to be a huge event, eclipsing the previous largest ever turnout since Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 inauguration with 1.2 million people. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty says up to 4 million people could converge on downtown Washington for the inauguration, although the Secret Service says that it expects 2 million people.


Every one of the 240,000 people attending the actual swearing-in ceremony will be screened by walk-through or hand-held metal detectors. Beyond the obvious weapons not allowed, you also will not be allowed to bring:

  • Sticks or poles
  • Pockets or hand tools, such as “Leatherman”
  • Packages
  • Backpacks
  • Large bags
  • Duffel bags
  • Suitcases
  • Thermoses
  • Coolers
  • Strollers
  • Umbrellas
  • Tripods and camera bags
  • Laser pointers
  • Signs
  • Posters
  • Animals (other than service animals)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Other items as determined by and at the discretion of the security screener

So while you might have thought it would be funny to point a laser pointer at the presidential motorcade, it will not be allowed.

It is likely to be so crowded that you won’t want to bring much with you besides your cellphone and camera.


Cellular carriers are adding capacity with temporary towers along the parade route. Still, with an unknown number of visitors, there is concern that the network will be overloaded.

One suggestion is to use text messages if your calls are not going through. These take up very little bandwidth and should work more easily.

Emergency responders and 911 calls will be given priority so those calls should be able to get through.

Getting to the event

All N. Va bridges will be closed to cars. You can walk or bike the bridges.

D.C. will be mostly shut down to traffic.


The Washington Post has an Inauguration Central website that includes:

  • A live webcam that is focused on the U.S. Capitol to show the construction of the Inaugural stage.
  • An FAQs section that gives users valuable information about ticket availability, transportation, ceremony timing and parade information, providing a sense of what to expect during in the weeks leading up to the Inauguration.
  • A downloadable map of the parade route with the most updated road closures in the area.
  • A calendar of Inaugural parties and events happening during Inauguration Week.
  • Quizzes, polls and discussion threads which give users a chance to test their inaugural knowledge.
  • A visitors guide which includes an interactive map of attractions on The Mall, suggestions on planning a trip to D.C. and advice on where to get lunch post-inauguration.
  • A section that features inauguration history, including a slideshow that provides a look at past inaugurations.

Inauguration Pop-up

One of favorite items to commemorate the inauguration is a pop-up picture of the event that you can print out and make yourself. This low-tech print out might not be like attending the real thing, but it will certainly be more comfortable.