Dan Gowans My personal thoughts and mindless ramblings

New Taste Weekends

03.25.2012 · Posted in Recipes, Thoughts

Sarah and I have been looking to branch out from our usual dinner options.  For the past few weeks, we’ve been using the weekends to try out new recipes.  Nothing too different, just preparing our usual dishes in a different way.  I’m hoping to log some of our choices here.

March 10th weekend – Homemade Chicken Strips

The recipe for this one came from one of the cookbooks we got for our wedding.  The breading used a mix of corn flakes, Parmesan cheese, and lemon pepper.  Sarah really enjoyed this one.  If I were to do it again, I’m not sure if I’d use lemon pepper, or at least I’d cut it back.  Also, the recipe called for cutting each chicken breast into three pieces.  Personally, I found the pieces too big, but then again, maybe I had larger pieces of chicken to start.  Finally to note when breading chicken, the less handling, the better, as the more you try to bread them, the more you scratch the breading off.  Probably tossing the breading mixture rather than the meat would have been more effective.

March 17th weekend – Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken with Wild Forest Mushroom Couscous

I found the chicken recipe while house-sitting at my parents’ house.  The couscous came from the grocery store.  The recipe involved cutting the chicken breasts open and stuffing them with mozzarella cheese.  The outside was coated with flour, Parmesan, parsley, paprika, and pepper.  I was quite under-impressed by the chicken.  The cheese melted out from the inside, and the outside coating was somewhat flavourless.  As for our first experience with couscous, I didn’t find it as satisfying as I hoped.  It was very light, and left me hungry.

March 24th weekend – Cinnamon Apple Pork Tenderloin

I’ve wanted to do something with pork and apples for a while now.  For this one, we invited my parents over to try it with us.  All positive reviews.  I did make a few deviations from the recipe, based on user reviews.  Some of the feedback mentioned the pork lacking flavour, so I used three apples rather than two.  I put one of those apples through a food processor to chunk it up small.  The rest of the apples were sliced and were prepared by the recipe.  Other reviews noted that the pork ended up dry, so I put the chunked up pieces on the bottom of the pan, along with 1/2 cup of water.  I also kept an eye on the second part of the cooking process, and ended up pulling the pork after 12 minutes, rather than the 15-20 minutes.  Of course I used a meat thermometer to ensure I hit temperature.  The end result was a moist and flavourful tenderloin.  Of the recipes I’ve tried so far, I think I liked this one the best.  However, I usually do tenderloin on the barbecue with pork spice.  It’s far less effort, and I think it’s a better result.

As for next week, I’m not sure yet.  Sarah’s thinking Chicken Parmesan, which would be different than the two other chicken recipes.  Sounds good, but I’d like to branch into another meat possibly.  Maybe beef, maybe something completely obscure.

Thinking about Movember

10.28.2011 · Posted in Photos, Work

So I signed up for Movember this year.  Movember is a month-long campaign to raise money for men’s health issues, like prostate cancer. Participants begin the month clean shaven, and grow a moustache for the month.  I’m participating with almost 40 other men from work.  What kind of moustache should I attempt to grow?

Want to donate to the cause?  You can make a pledge through my donation page.  Every little bit helps.

I’ll try to post updates on the progress over the month.  Should be fun.

Three new tools I can’t get enough of

02.27.2011 · Posted in Software

One of my New Year’s resolutions for this year is to get my computer more organized.  I do a pretty good job backing up files, and keeping my folders tidy, but there is more I can do.  I think I have now almost completely achieved computer organization nirvana, and all for zero dollars.

1. Dropbox

Dropbox provides 2GB of online storage that is easily accessible from any computer with Dropbox installed, or from their website.  2GB may not sound like much, but if you are just using it to back up documents like resumes, reports, and others, it’s more than enough.  In the event that’s not enough space, you can always pay for more.

I tried the free 25GB Skydrive from Microsoft.  Bigger is better, right?  Not really.  I did not like the way files move between my computer and the service.  To access Skydrive, you needed to either upload through their website, or map a network drive.  So, if the Internet was unavailable, so were the files.  With Dropbox, the folder is synced, so I always have my files locally if the Internet goes down.

2. TrueCrypt

TrueCrypt allows you to create encrypted file containers that appear as hard drives on the computer.  The benefit?  Although I trust Dropbox not to pry through my files, by syncing the encrypted file container rather than the unencrypted files, I have more piece of mind.  I don’t TrueCrypt everything as it would take longer to sync the larger container files, but anything I wouldn’t want someone else looking at, I encrypt.  Keep if mind, if you are syncing a TrueCrypt file, keep the container size small.  You can always create a new container of a larger size later if need be.

3. Belvedere

Belvedere monitors folders for files that meet a set of rules, then performs an action.  For example, you can organize your downloads folder by moving all seven day old files to an archive folder automatically.  I completely purge certain files from my downloads folder that have been there over a day, as I know I’ll never use them again.  It’s quite powerful once you get into it.

Seriously, give some of these a try.  What’s the worst that could happen?  You get organized too?

PS3 Media Streaming project, part 3

02.26.2011 · Posted in Software

Nearly two months after my last changes to my media streaming setup, the saga continues.  This time, in the form of hardware.  This morning, I charged up my cordless drill, punched a hole in the wall, and ran an Ethernet cable straight to the back of the PS3.

I’m addicted to Revision3 shows.  Every weekend, I sit back and watch the week’s shows.  At the end of January, Revision3 decided to change up their supported formats, dropping the Xvid format, my format of choice.  This left me with a choice of WMV or MP4.  I’ve tried streaming MP4s in the past of wireless G to the PS3 with no luck.  The amount of jitter makes them unwatchable.  I settled on WMV.  Although it worked, I wasn’t really satisfied.  The quality was far worse.  There were distracting artifacts.  Every week, at least one show would be corrupted.  Sadly, I was forced to make it work.

Then, my wife came to the rescue.  She had been asking me to cancel the cable for a few months now, as we hardly ever use it.  This past Monday, I made the call.  She was so happy I finally did it that she gave me permission to drill the hole, and run the Ethernet cable.  Today, I did just that.

So now, I’m resubscribing to my Revision3 shows again, this time to MP4.  I’m also going to play around some with other media servers that offer transcoding features.  I’m by no means throwing away the Windows Media Player solution.  It’s by far the best media server I’ve used so far, and if it works so well over wireless, it’s only going to be better wired.  Occasionally though, I’d like to play an MKV file without running it through Handbrake first.  Possibly PS3 Media Server?

Facebook Instant Personalization, yet another scary privacy setting

01.29.2011 · Posted in Software

Facebook has just enabled a new feature to expose your personal information where you wouldn’t expect. Searching the web. It’s called Instant Personalization, and in my eyes, it’s worth disabling for sure.

What is Instant Personalization? According to Facebook:

Our goal is to give you a great social and personalized experience with every app and website you use. We’ve worked with a select set of partners to personalize your experience as soon as you arrive on their sites.

These partner sites (currently limited to Bing, TripAdvisor, Clicker, Rotten Tomatoes, Docs, Pandora, Yelp, and Scribd), can only access the information and content you’ve already made available to everyone. All our partners are required to respect your information and we’ve worked closely with them to make sure they do.

The demo video highlights the Rotten Tomatoes tie-in, and makes the feature look kind of fun.  Rotten Tomatoes is a movie review website, so by tying in Facebook, you can share the movies you have seen, and what you rate them.  Not too bad.

The scariest tie-in they don’t get into is Bing, the default search engine in Internet Explorer.  I use Google, so I’m not worried about this, but imagine all of your web searches shared with your friends.  I’m sure you only search for things you want your parents, your family, and all your friends knowing about.  Right?

According to Facebook, there is a notification on each participating site to “opt-in” to the service on the site itself.  However, there is a way to supposedly disable the feature on all participating websites.

The disable link is quite buried.  At the top of Facebook, click “Account”, then “Privacy Settings”.  Scroll to the bottom of the page.  Under “Apps and Settings”, click “Edit Your Settings”.  Next to “Instant Personalization”, click “Edit Settings”.  Close the popup video that tells you how great the feature is.  Scroll to the bottom of the page, and uncheck the box.

While you’re in there, clean up some of the other privacy settings.  Honestly, if my family and friends didn’t use Facebook so heavily to share information, I would avoid this site like the plague.


Looks like this feature has been around since April of last year.  Ugh.  Here are some articles about the specifics of how Facebook is integrate into these websites.

Causes on Facebook

12.31.2010 · Posted in Thoughts

I rarely participate in those Facebook causes. The last one I took part in was the cartoon characters one for child abuse awareness, and the only reason I did was because Sarah went into my Facebook account and did it for me. That, and it was kind of fun to see the cartoon characters.

What gets me about these causes is that I almost feel bad if I don’t take part because it makes me come off as an insensitive person. “Why don’t you have a purple profile pic right now? Don’t you care about saving the raisins?” Truthfully, if anyone asks me for a donation to some sort of charity, I usually throw a few dollars their way. I take part in work fundraisers, and although I don’t volunteer as much anymore, I get involved where I can. I’m not insensitive. I just think the way causes are done on Facebook are just a pile of crap.

I use Facebook for one reason only, to keep in touch with friends and family. Not to change my profile picture every week to bring “awareness” to some sort of cause. To be honest, most of the time when I see someone doing something cause-related to their profile picture, they don’t mention why, so the cause they are supposedly bringing awareness too is lost. But they look great with a green tint!

Here’s a video from Penn Jillette about this very thing. He’s quite vulgar (NSFW), but the message is simple. If you really want to help with a cause, do something real!

PS3 Media Streaming project, part 2

12.23.2010 · Posted in Software

A few weeks ago, I reworked my system for streaming videos and music to my PS3.  For the most part, I’m quite happy with the Windows Media Player setup.  Every video I’ve thrown at it has streamed blip-free, the biggest thing that turned me off of TVersity in the first place.  However, I have found a few quirks, and changed out a few things.

1. Goodbye FeedDemon. Hello Juice!

FeedDemon really dropped the ball since I recommended it for downloading podcasts.  They moved from version 3 to version 4, and took the automatic downloading ofenclosures out of the free version!  Angered, I searched out another way to download podcasts.

I opted for Juice, as recommended by Revision3.  It’s a free, open-source tool designed for simply downloading podcasts.  I originally thought I needed all the newsreader functionality, but all I really need is a tool to download files to a folder.  Juice does that quite well, along with maintaining playlists in Windows Media Player for easy viewing.  They also have the ability to run an executable after download, a feature I’m not using yet, but am hoping to.  A feature I miss from TVersity is how they rename the podcast file name when streaming to the title of the podcast episode itself.  When I figure out how to set the video title metatag by command line, I will have replaced all of TVersity’s functionality that I used.

2. Goodbye GOTSent. Welcome back MKV2VOB!

MKVs don’t play on the PS3, but even if they did, MKV support for Windows Media Player is quite clunky.  The last file I tried to convert out of MKV using GOTSent failed on writing out the file.  Maybe it was a new Windows 7 security thing that I didn’t fully understand, but I didn’t care to try.  I gave MKV2VOB another try, and it worked perfectly.  I think I had something weird with the MKV splitter the first time I tried MKV2VOB, so it had issues, while GOTSent bundles everything it needs with itself, so it worked.  GOTSent is still a good second choice.

3. Windows 7 sharing permissions are annoying.

This was a non issue with TVersity.  Whatever folder I pointed TVersity at would stream just fine.  Windows Media Player however respects the Windows sharing settings for each file.  I’m not sure why, but video files always stream fine, while MP3 audio files default to a “locked” status.  The PS3 can see them, but can’t play them.

The solution.  Find the files in Windows Explorer.  They likely have a small lock on their icons, indicating they are not shared at all. Even if there is no lock icon, that may mean they are only shared with the “homegroup”, still not available to the PS3.  Highlight the files, right-click, “Share With”, “Specific People…”.

Select “Everyone” from the droplist, “Add” them, and make sure they have “Read” privileges.  I wish I could get music to automatically share nicely like video, but I’m not quite there yet.

Despite these minor hiccups, I’m still not missing TVersity.  With any new tool, there’s a learning curve, and I think I’m almost at media streaming bliss.