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Birthday Gifts – A Review

December 16, 2004

As we get older, birthdays seem to count for less and less.  In fact, if it weren’t for the presents (and the day off work), they would be no different from any other days.  But ah, the presents.

I no longer get bombarded with presents, as was the case in my childhood, that could be stacked to the ceiling.  But those that I did get, I am most happy with.  To sate what I am sure is your burning curiosity, here is a brief (okay, maybe not) rundown.

Apple AirPort Express

Airport_express

What, you ask, is an AirPort Express?  At the most basic, it is a Wi-Fi router that passes the joys of the internet wirelessly from the modem to your computer.  I got two for my birthday, which is nice, since we are planning to use them as the backbone of our wireless internet connection in the new house.

There are cheaper routers out there, but Apple, as usually, has thrown in some nifty innovations of its own:

  • Print Sharing – the AirPort has a USB port built in, so you can connect a printer to it and print wirelessly.
  • "AirTunes" – a true revelation.  The AirPort has an audio output, allowing you to connect it to a receiver, speakers, etc.  Once you do, it then lets you play your iTunes library wirelessly over your home stereo.

So far, I’m quite happy with the two AirPorts.  "AirTunes" is awesome, and painless to set up.  Print sharing is far more complicated.  It isn’t referred to in the manual at all (the whole setup much be far easier on Macs), and when I finally found the necessary instructions, let’s just say it might help to have a network administrator at your side.  My goodness.  But, now that I’ve got a printer set up to one of them, it works flawlessly.

If you have an iPod, use iTunes, and are already using Wi-Fi or want to make the jump, I can’t recommend this little router enough.

The Return of the King Extended Edition

Lotrrotk

Now, this only arrived yesterday, and I won’t be able to sit down and watch it properly until Jamie leaves town.  And yes, I actually asked her last night when she would be leaving town, so I could watch it.  Word to the wise, don’t ask your wife when she will be leaving town so that you can watch a movie.  Anyway, since I haven’t had a chance to view it yet, I can’t really offer a review.  But I can talk about what takes it above and beyond the regular "Return of the King".

For starters, it is an extended edition.  The EE versions of the first two films are spectacular, and the additional scenes really flesh out the stories.  This should be even more true of ROTK, which has a whopping FIFTY MINUTES of additional footage, putting the total runtime at just under six days.  I felt the theatrical version was somewhat rushed, so I’m looking forward to the Extended Edition to set that straight.  And to do so in gorgeous DTS ES 6.1 surround sound.

In addition, it has two discs chock full of documentaries covering everything from the adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel to the costumes to the special effects.

I’ll be sure to post something when I finally get to watch it.

Spiderman 2

Spider2

What can I say?  Spiderman 2 was my favorite superhero movie until Pixar went and released "The Incredibles".  It is still awesome, even on the smaller screen of a television.

Cannae: The Experience of Battle in the Second Punic War – by Greg Daly

I already have at least a dozen solid books on the Second Punic War – with my favorites being those done by Lazenby and Goldsworthy.  Daly’s work is very academic, and certainly not for the casual reader.  What I like about it, however, is that it corrals together all the various academic theories into one place, and explores them in turn.  All along, I’ve been drawing my own conclusions of what I believe happened by reading through as many opinions as possible, and this book only makes that easier.  It comes a bit too late to make much of an impact on my novel’s first draft, but it will no doubt come into play in the editing.

Canon PIXMA ip3000 Photo Printer

Canonpixma

I love photo printers, or at least the concept of them.  The idea of completely cutting out camera stores certainly appeals to me.  But I’ve never had great luck with the reality of photo printers.  I’ve had two Epsons go through the same issues of printing great at first, but completely jumping the shark after a month.  New ink cartridges did nothing to fix the problems, and I eventually just gave up.

However, with a ton of digital pictures and no simple way to print them out, I decided to look around and see if the ballgame had changed at all.  And indeed it had.  The Canon ip3000 came with glowing reviews on Amazon.  I did some more checking, noted how cheap the cost of ownership looks to be (since it has four independent ink tanks), and added it to my wish list.

It arrived last week, wrapped in an odd nylon bag (way to skimp on the gift wrap, Amazon).  It is light, relatively small, and, best of all, it can completely close up to keep itself from getting all dusty (this is seriously important in our house).

I finally got around to installing it last night, and, wow.  The print quality is amazing, better, I think, than the Epsons I tore through in the past.  And the "EasyPrint" software is perfection.  It will automatically size your photos to whatever paper you’re printing on, and let you position them and preview them before letting the printer go to work.

The reviews on Amazon seem more than justified.  And no, I don’t refer to Justin Timberlake’s solo album, which should have been named "Terrible".

Jamie’s Present

Pantheon

Last, but not least, Jamie got me the best surprise of all.  When in Rome on our honeymoon, I bought an awesome architectural print of the Pantheon (not the one above, but along the same lines, only much better).  Since then it has been sitting rolled up in the computer room.  Well, Jamie snuck it out and got it mounted and framed for me.  It turned out great.  So great, in fact, that she even likes it, and would be willing to consider hanging it somewhere else than in the computer, which is also known as "the place where we put all of Matt’s crap".

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