Image Functions In PHP

The image functions aren’t really anything new for me, I’ve done some things (like graphing functions) with the PHP image functions, but I mucked around with some advanced functions (alpha blending of multiple layers and scaling the output). And all I have to say is the PHP imaging functions are awesome (of course most of the credit is because of the GD lib).

But as an example, I made something that can render what any 2005 Hummer would look like (colors, options, etc.) dynamically. It also can dynamically generate thumbnails which ended up being a lot smoother than I thought it would. It’s like modern day paper dolls.

Base Package:
Colored Grille
Chrome Brush Guard
Up-Level Chrome
Show As Thumbnail

BTW, this is what mine looks like:

How To Play Tennis

Not that I really know *how* to play Tennis that well, but I started playing (well, at this point I wouldn’t exactly call it playing… more like trying to play).

It’s a pretty fun sport (I’ve played three times in the last week now, and each time I’m getting better). Even hitting the ball against the practice wall is pretty fun. I figure it will be at least a month or two before I’m good enough to go pro though (and earn some supplemental income).

After-Market Car Audio Shortcomings

My perfect system would be this:

  • Double DIN touch-screen controller

  • Video out (to drive monitors in rear headrests)

  • Navigation system that can be controlled from the touch-screen
It doesn’t seem like a terribly tall order, but I don’t think I have any options. Some stuff is close, but nothing is “complete”.

Can’t someone combine all the good stuff into one system? 🙂

H2 Hummer Gas Mileage

With my new truck, I was expecting to get about 8 miles per gallon. I drove it around over 100 miles today, and the on-board computer showed me getting 12.5 miles per gallon overall. Definitely not great mileage, but better than I was expecting.

One nice thing about it is my Toyota Tacoma has a 17 gallon tank and got 16 miles per gallon (272 miles between gas station visits). The H2 has a 32 gallon tank, so 12.5 miles per gallon works out to exactly 400 miles per tank. So the slightly higher fuel costs is offset by saving my time of going to the gas station. 🙂

2005 H2 SUT

Well, I finally decided to get one (a 2005 SUT), so I picked it up from the dealer today. Got a pretty good deal on it, and it was exactly what I wanted (I would never have bought it if it wasn’t). This is what I ended up getting:

2005 Hummer 2 SUT (Stealth Gray Metallic)

– Luxury Package (“Ebony” [why not just call it black?] leather interior, heated seats [rear too], chrome roof rack, mirrors, handles, side steps and wheels, 6 disc CD changer, XM radio, floor mats, leather console and chrome interior trim)

– Self leveling air suspension system

– On board air compressor (with hose)

– First aid kit

– Chrome wrap-around brush guard (I needed this for lights)

– Off road lights (on brush guard)

– Locking hard tonneau cover

– Snowboard rack (up to 4 boards)

Chechnya’s War With Russia

Just a little note to let everyone know how super stoked I am (Yelena too) that Chechen terrorists are hitting Russia 2 weeks before we go there. In the last week they blew up two planes, suicide bombed a subway station and now they took a school hostage and are killing kids.

Can’t wait to go to Russia! 🙂

Live Traffic Maps In Vehicles Coming Soon

I did a little research about Europe’s ability for vehicles to see traffic and accident conditions in their car automatically (for example overlaid on a GPS map), and I’m a little more educated about it now. It’s called TMC (Traffic Message Channel), and most European countries support it now. It transmits info to receivers via FM transmission towers.

To make a long story short, we are going to be getting it in the United States very soon and will go live hopefully sometime in 2005 via existing FM transmitters. Not only that, but NAVTEQ is coming out with a system called XM NavTraffic, which will let vehicles get traffic data via XM satellite feeds if they are out of range of an existing FM transmitter.

All I can say is, cool. Almost makes me want to wait to buy a car, although I’m sure there will be lots of after-market systems to support it in existing cars.

Retarded Car Salespeople

Of course I’m sure there are some nice and normal car salespeople, but this was just too funny… I started to inquire about a Hummer SUT to a few dealerships, and this was one of my conversations:

Me: I want this color and these options [boring stuff cut out]. If you have that exact vehicle with no extra options and no options missing [remember this part] then let’s talk.

Them: Yep, I have one of that exact vehicle.

Me: Okay, How much is it?

Them: $87,000

Me: Hmmm, you really are asking $35,000 above MSRP for it?

Them: No, not at all. It’s totally tricked out with a chrome under-body, DVD entertainment system, turbo charger, 20″ wheels with low-profile tires, etc.

Aside from this guy just being deaf or retarded (maybe both), why in the hell would anyone put low-profile racing tires on a Hummer 2 is beyond me.

Displaying Surrounding Traffic In A Vehicle Navigation System

There are websites that can show live freeway speeds, accidents, etc. for US cities.

While doing some investigating into different navigation systems for a vehicle, I noticed something really neat that only European models have. They are able to display traffic and accidents on the navigation map magically (and reroute you to your destination to avoid traffic). So without doing any actual investigation into it, I’m assuming that traffic conditions for a surrounding area are floating around the airwaves for anyone to pick up with the proper hardware.

Now what I want to know is why in the hell don’t we have something cool like that? 🙂

Irish Spring Soap

I would just like to say that after been stuck with Zest soap for awhile before going back to Irish Spring soap, I truly appreciate what a superior soap Irish Spring is. I don’t think I’ll ever use anything else for the rest of my life. That’s terribly interesting, wouldn’t you say? 🙂

BTW, the corned beef turned out really good.

Corned Beef Recipe

I found a corned beef recipe online (the Internet is pretty cool), and I’m sure everyone really cares about it… But too bad. 🙂 I’m going to *try* to makes corned beef for dinner, so I’m off to the store. I’m not sure if I even have a pot big enough… I’m nervous.

Actually, it’s really not all that difficult, pretty much just boil everything.

Funny Joke About A Pedophile

This is really the only joke I know, but I think it’s pretty damn funny. Allison (my friend’s girlfriend) told it to me like 2 years ago, and I still think it’s funny, so here goes…

A guy comes home from work to see his girlfriend crying and packing all her stuff. When he asks her what’s wrong, she sobs that she is leaving him because she just found out he is a pedophile.

With a look of disbelief, he steps back and says, “Whoa! That’s a big word for a 12 year old.”

Hmmm, it’s not as funny when you read it, but tell it to a friend, they will think it’s funny. 🙂

Video Game Girls In Playboy

The October 2004 issue of Playboy is going to be featuring video game characters. Some are going to be “posing seductively”, some topless and others with full nudity. Some of the characters being featured are BloodRayne, Mileena, Nina, Tala, etc.

Seems kind of strange (but funny) to me. Maybe I would be more excited about it if Lara Croft was going to be there (just kidding).

Xbox In A Car

While it would be for no real reason, other than just to see if it could be done, I think I ruled out putting an Xbox in a Hummer 2. There just isn’t enough room to put it anywhere without loosing functional space.

Actually, now that I think about it, I guess it could serve some useful purposes:

  • Something to do when I’m waiting in the car for something (parked of course).

  • Mod the Xbox so you can put a bigger hard drive in it, and put a few hundred DVDs I own on the hard drive so people could watch a movie in the car without actually needing to physically bring the DVD.

Still the problem of no room though. Might be able to gut it and build a ultra-low profile case with just the motherboard and hard drive (drop the case, the power supply and the DVD-ROM), and pop in a smaller DC native power supply (really no point in getting an inverter to convert 12V DC -> 120V AC just so the power supply can turn it back into DC.

Hmmm… {thinking}

Pageant of the Masters

Went to the Pageant of the Masters last night in Laguna Beach, and it was pretty awesome (like it always is). The only really annoying thing with it is all the shows are sold out 9 months in advance every year (but I guess that’s a good thing, because if it was lame, no one would want to go).

If you don’t know what it is, you should visit the site, because it’s just too hard to actually explain. The quick explanation is it’s actors dressed up like people within works of art. It’s so good you can’t tell the one that has actors in it from the real works of art.

Alpine Touch Screen Compatible Navigation

I poked around a little bit, and found out Alpine has a touch-screen compatible navigation system after all (NVE-N099P), which is the one piece missing from the setup I want. The only problem is that it’s only available in Europe and comes with road maps of Europe. I can’t find any dimension specs for it, but from the picture, it looks like it has a much lower profile than the old units, which would be really nice.

While this does me no good, maybe it’s a sign that they will be bringing it to the US market soon.

Replacing Hummer 2 Stereo

The issues I have with the factory stereo in the 2005 H2 really bothers me enough that the the first thing I would do with the truck (assuming I get one) will be replace the factory stereo.

I did a little research, and so far, the best option I can find is an Alpine based system, but it has some “issues” of it’s own.

IVA-300 Deck

For starters, I like the IVA-D300 DVD receiver with 7″ monitor. In some ways, the IVA-D901 is a better one (it has higher resolution on the screen and has 2 independent video out options instead of just one), but it also has some things that are nicer (specifically the PulseTouch and DVD direct-touch features). If a Hummer 2 actually had room to mount an Xbox, the IVA-D901 might be a better option if you had 2 LCDs in the back (one person could watch a movie and one could play a video game independently).

The system has an input for a backup camera if you want (the monitor automatically switches to it when you put the vehicle in reverse). Might not be a bad idea with such a large truck. It also has a generic A/V input which you could use for an Xbox (if there was room) or to playback video on a camcorder or something.

KCA-420i iPod Interface

I don’t really care for CD changers in the car, because I’m too lazy to actually change the discs, so I just end up with 6 CDs that I listen to forever. The KCA-420i is a nifty Alpine module that is a true iPod bridge (you can control everything from the touch-screen). This is much better than the iPod <-> BMW bridge since you are limited because it simply tricks the factory stereo into thinking the iPod is a CD changer. The Alpine option actually lets you browse by Artist, playlist, genre, etc. just like the normal iPod interface. This isn’t out yet, but is supposed to be out next month.

Metra VT-GMOS-02 Bus Interface

An interface bus to hook up the Hummer 2 electronics to the after market system. This allows the door chime, ONSTAR and audible safety warnings to continue functioning. It also allows you to utilize the Bose amplified speaker system that is already in the vehicle.

PAC SWI-X Steering Wheel Interface

This nifty little interface allows you to retain the steering wheel functions for the stereo for an after market stereo. One nice thing is that since it really just turns the steering wheel controls into an infrared remote, you could reprogram any of the steering wheel buttons to do other things if you want.

Vizualogic Video Headrests

This makes it easy. The screens are built into the headrests (the factory headrests and simply replaced with ones to match). The only problem with this is black leather is new for 2005 in the Hummer, and Vizualogic doesn’t yet have a replacement for the black interior (that I could find at least). But I’m sure they will be coming out with it shortly.

NVE-N852A Navigation

Now this is where things go terribly wrong with this setup. The in-dash monitor has nice touch-screen controls, but the navigation system is not touch-screen compatible. That means you can see the navigation on the monitor, but you actually have to control the navigation from a separate hand-held remote. This part makes the navigation system useless in my opinion (the nav system came out before the touch-screen systems). I’m *hoping* Alpine updates their navigation offering and comes out with one that is touch-screen compatible (I can only assume they would). So for me, the whole system is on hold until that happens.

The other problem is trying to “hide” all this equipment within the Hummer somewhere. I looked under the seat of a Hummer 2 at the dealer, and it didn’t look like the equipment would fit under the seat. The above setup would have 3 boxes that would need to hide away (one each for the deck, navigation and iPod bridge). Maybe some will fit behind the dashboard or something.

Travel To Russia

After 6 weeks of jumping through hoops, I’m going to Russia next month for 5 days.

Russia is not a particularly easy country to travel to (most countries don’t require an American citizen to even get a Visa), but I got it all taken care of.

  • Got a US Passport

  • Got “sponsored” so I could apply for a Russian Visa

  • The Russian embassy gave me a Visa without any problems. I was pretty surprised, because it took Yelena (my girlfriend) about a year to get her passport renewed through the Russian embassy, and even had to resend her picture to them because they said it was a “defective” picture (they lost it).

Now all I have to do is fill out a migration card when I get to the Moscow airport, and register with the police department in every city I visit… yay! hehe

She is going for a little under 2 weeks, so I’m going to meet up with her at the end of her trip and travel home together (we have an overnight layover in Germany coming back, so it will also be the first time I visit Germany as well, so that will be cool).

Hybrid Hummer 2

Sick of all my Hummer related entries in the blog yet? It’s just been on my mind lately I guess… 🙂

Anyway, I read an interview with one of the guys at GM, and he mentioned that they are working on a Hybrid H2. But it isn’t expected until the 2007 or 2008 model year.

While that would be cool, but I don’t really want to wait that long. I’ll be the first to admit that a Hummer 2 is a gas hog (it gets 10-13 miles per gallon), but compared to what I currently drive (Toyota Tacoma Limited), it’s not all that much worse (it gets 15-16 miles per gallon).

2005 Hummer 2 Factory Stereo Options

Did a little research on the stereo options for the Hummer 2 today. New for 2005 is the option for a touch-screen navigation system. Sounds cool, but check this out…

  • If you get the navigation system, you can’t have the CD changer.

  • The DVD that holds the maps goes in the normal CD/DVD slot on the main stereo.

  • That means that if you want to actually *use* the navigation system, there is no option to listen to a CD. Now that just seems idiotic to me.

Hummer SUT

While I don’t absolutely *need* a new car, the 2005 H2 SUT is making me put some serious consideration into it. So now I’m trying to justify what would end up being about $65,000 (when it’s all said and done) in my mind. So this is what I came up with… Starting this month, any affiliate money I earn that is more than $5,000 per month (not as a whole, but from a single source) will go towards the Hummer 2. As an example, if I get $6,000 from Company A, $8,000 from Company B and $6,500 from Company C (only affiliate income counts of course), I would put $5,500 that month towards the car.

Since affiliate income is essentially free money, it makes it easier to justify in my mind.