Ikea Pax wardrobe-cum entertainment center

Like much of the first worlds’ over-fed population, last year I went out and indulged in a flat-screen television. Consequently, like the rest of flat-screen T.V. buyers I found out that my old C.R.T.—based entertainment center was inadequate for the new wideness of L.C.D.

The temporary (over a year) solution was to simply put the L.C.D. television on top of the old outdated Ikea unit and fill the now empty square with miscellaneous D.V.D.’s and video games. Needless to say, this looked pretty ridiculous and the absurdity was only compounded by the bowing of the now top-heavy center.

With all of my loot blown on the T.V., I could not afford a fancy stand nor would any of these compact new flat-screen friendly entertainment centers fit all of my capitalist wares of component stereo, D.V.D./V.C.R. combo, C.D. player, cable box, record player, center channel speaker, video game systems, and gobs and gobs of media. What was I to do?

Well, inspired by ikeahacker.blogspot.com, I had to look no further than my Ikea Pax wardrobe. This 93” tall utilitarian behemoth is nothing more than shelves where I put my clothes. However, the idea came to me that it might also serve as a good entertainment center, just in need of a little hacking.

The Pax unit I purchased in 2006 was $111.28. This included the box itself and six shelves. I figured for that price I would have all of the entertainment center storage I needed plus I would undercut the price of a smaller (inadequate), however, T.V. specific unit by at least $60, according to what I had seen listed.

So I saved my pennies and took my measurements to make sure my 37” television would fit inside my, what happens to be, 39” wide wardrobe and I put caution and shelf strength to the wind and headed down to Ikea.

It turns out they have inflation in Sweden. In 2008 my aforementioned Pax configuration cost me $149.80. However, I was still beating the price of some of the smallest T.V. stands by a nice margin.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “this entertainment center idea is not a hack, it is a repurposed wardrobe!” However, you would be wrong because the load-bearing composite-board (the integral life force of all Ikea furniture) had to be drilled to make way for wires. These holes are very important as without them my little electronic boxes do not receive power or connectivity.

So, with my Dremel-esque (borrowed) tool, I took bit to flimsy composite and watched many, many particles of dust fly. My cuts were less than precise, however, I knew (read hoped) they would be largely concealed. I measured shelves’ distance by the screw hole (not to be confused with my drilled holes, these line the interior of the cabinet for shelf hanging purposes) for tight fit and maximum storage and up went my Ikea hacked Pax wardrobe-cum entertainment center.

Sitting here enjoying the completed project, I am very happy. It probably took way to long to finish (as I kept putting the shelf sinkers in screw holes that did not line up their pairings) but the completed unit is just what my little apartment needed. A towering faux antique wood stained monstrosity that screams “coach potato.” Shine on you Swedish diamond!

TimeDoctor Approved Podcasts of the Week 05/09/08

This week my favorite podcasts were The 1UP Show (after the break) and the Joystiq podcast, sampan hats off to them all:

The Joystiq Podcast crew hit their 49th episode this week, Chris Grant, Ludwig Kietzmann and Justin McElroy, are covering random games and lots of GTA4, as expected. The best part is their Philadelphian Vocal Pronunciation class.  This link is their RSS feed, this one is the direct MP3, and this one is the iTunes subscription. In a previous episode they even answered a question from Y.T. about the Korean game industry.

Continue reading “TimeDoctor Approved Podcasts of the Week 05/09/08”

Star Wars fans are decadent and depraved

I have always considered myself a big fan of George Lucas’ Star Wars. Having watched all but the first release theatrically, and then having seen the re-releases and then prequels on the big screen, I feel that Star Wars holds a big place in my entertained idea of self. From birthday cakes, to Halloween costumes, common quotes amongst friends, to lists of greatest screen villains, the stories from a galaxy far, far away strike a chord with me. However, it was recently that I found out there exists another level of fan — the likes of which I do not even approach.

Sir, Duke of DorkWhile browsing the web, I came across a forum of Star Wars fans that cannot be rivaled. I sat and I read for literally hours the messages of a group of people who study every piece of minutia in Lucas’ alien galaxy. Their love is recreating these worlds and people, right here on earth, in the form of costume and prop. They study screen captures of each scene from the films to get every detail right. Forum threads (each containing double-digit pages of posts) record the back and forth of analysis and approximation to correct recreation. Hundred of hours are spent laboring and then broadcasting the achievements attained in recreating the Star Wars universe. Obsession is the name of the game.

Each forum is comprised of many threads of messages. Each thread is devoted to a certain aspect of the Film (character, weapon, make-up, piece of clothing.) Those that claim to be a part of the Vader community do nothing but study this character and his four film incarnations. They devote themselves to recreating his costume as the bounds of each films dictates. (In each Star Wars film in which Darth Vader appears, his costume has subtle variations due to budgeting and taste of Lucas and fellow creators.) So page after page of this thread is dedicated to a member’s recreation of Darth Vader as he appeared in The Empire Strikes Back. Other members weigh in on the photos that are uploaded by the re-creator. Accuracy is debated and checked. High definition screen captures are studied. This goes on until completion and then perhaps the work is shared as it is sold to other admirers in the form of casts of the newly created molds of chest boxes and helmet tusks.

I sat in amusement reading about those who put my once lofty levels of fandom to shame. I also laughed at the absurdity of it all. The literally hundreds of man-hours spent recreating the paltry few hours of film that actually portrayed this intergalactic escapism leads one to laugh at the silliness of it all.

Should one laugh? What gives me the right to heckle one man’s use of spare time over my own pursuits? Should that which society deems a more productive use of free time be held up against those of our aforementioned super-fans? Does working on one’s lawn, following a baseball team, or reading all of Hemingway’s prose amount to something of more worth than festooning your Vader helmet with correctly colored (film accurate) lenses?

Well, if we are to be moderate in all things, then yes, obsessively studying the fit of movie character’s armor should be criticized. However, in doing so, one should also realize the frivolity of one’s own desires and immoderate pastimes. A virtue reality check, if you will. Han shot first!

Sony MDR-NC6 Noise-Cancelling Headphones

I bought these just before getting on an 11-hour plane ride to California from Seoul. Unfortunately, they don’t include the AAA battery needed for the noise canceling functionality, but they were handy for the plane ride none-the-less.

Why were they useful on the plane still? Well, the NC6 headphones retained some noise-blocking functionality even though they are open cans. They also included an airline adaptor which was useful for the in-flight movies once I discovered that bit-torrenting the TV Series Lost wasn’t a great choice for viewing during a flight.

The sound quality is decent, certainly not as good bass as I’d like. On the plane I watched the movies “Mad Detective” and “Three Kings”, both of which sounded good on these ‘phones. My main complaint would be with the noise-canceling functionality: it can give me a headache if I use it with anything that doesn’t have constant noise (music, movies, etc). So, for example, listening to This American Life at work with the MDR-NC6’s gives me a headache after an hour or two due to the white noise produced when the noise canceling functionality is enabled.

Also note that these headphones do not fit the iPhone (Edge) by default, for that you’ll need some kind of vile adapter.

Overall, I’d say they have good enough sound quality, and are definitely worth an airport purchase. Office workers may enjoy the MDR-NC6’s especially for their ability to quickly toggle between hearing everything around you and what you’re listening to, to noise-cancellation mode where you can focus on your work, with the switch on the right earpiece.

If you want some other recommendations, check out David Pogue’s recent video review of some similar sets, or the text version of his article.

Score: 3/5 Alien Skulls

Caller I.D. Culture

Since its popular inception, by some estimates about ten years ago, Caller I.D. (the ability to see the phone number that is calling you) has changed the way we communicate. This seemingly simple convenience has turned communication on its ear and transformed its legions of tacit adopters (Caller I.D. was once exclusively a landline pay service that now comes standard with most cell phones) into a bourgeoning generation of call screeners and selective recluses.

A friend recently started a new job that came equipped with the standard means of communication in phone and e-mail. He was reluctant to give out his new work contact information to family and friends as he feared this would lead to distraction. They had his cell phone number or any of the myriad of personal e-mail addresses should they choose to contact him. The problem surfaced a few weeks into the new job as he would use the office phone to place calls to friends as reception for his cell was not too good in the office or when his cell minutes were low. It seemed that relations, not recognizing buddies’ number on their Caller I.D. chose to ignore his calls at a frequent rate.

At my own home were up until recently we had Caller I.D. block (the evil practice of disabling those receiving your calls from knowing the number from which they originate) people would often not answer as they did not know who is calling. With some friends, they had another phone company provided service that would automatically not receive calls from locations that did broadcast their numbers. This created either a mutually destructive phone call with neither party getting through or the act of having the block disabled on one end or the other albeit temporarily until the phone is dialed again. Some friends knew it was us calling by the fact that their Caller I.D. read Restricted. My own brother called me from a restricted phone the other day (not his usual M.O.). I ignored him unknowingly.

This all leads me to the fact that we are now identified by the ring tones and pictures/icons/avatars or in the most basic case, digits that appear on our friends and families’ phones marked by Caller I.D. We are all marked, tagged, and identified in a matter of rings and just as quickly decided upon by that calls receiver if we are destined for voicemail. The former binary configuration of telephone operation is gone. We no longer answer a ringing phone based on our desire to communicate damning the fact that it could be a telemarketer and not my friend with the baseball tickets for tonight’s game. No, we are now, thanks to Caller I.D., thrust into the more complex game of do I or do I not want to interact with this person.

The further implication is one that has been a hurdle for many forms of burgeoning technology, that is, does this cast us off more from society and interaction. Can what is basically a phone utility actually breakdown the forms of communication? Some say it can and it does as users of Caller I.D. that are perhaps depressed or desiring isolation (the latter being not always a bad thing) cut themselves off further.

So the next time you find yourself calling from an alien number or up against a prompt telling you to leave a message after a paltry three or four rings, the chances are you have been I.D.’d and discarded for later. Welcome to the world of Caller I.D. culture. Maybe you should have tried text messaging your sentiment instead?

An Unfortunate Guide to Upgrading Ubuntu:

Springtime is when a young man’s fancy turns towards upgrading, enclosed within please find a handy guide for dealing with these desires:

  1. Boot Ubuntu for first time in two months
  2. Hardlock at GDM
  3. Look up the wikipedia entry for SysRq
  4. Try SysRq combos a few times
  5. Wait a minute
  6. Give up
  7. Reboot via the big button
  8. GOTO Step 1
  9. Escape once you figure out that you need to boot into “rescue mode”
  10. Uninstall “envy” nvidia drivers
  11. Update Ubuntu normally.
  12. Note that your gnome desktop is now missing your wallpaper
  13. Cry gently into your “Penguin”
  14. Repeat at next upgrade time.