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Review

Rubber Duck Website

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After Blip.tv gave most of it’s members the boot (see previous post), we had to find a new host for Rubber Duck Theater. We set up an account on YouTube, but YouTube is over-the-top with their copy write filters and either places ads on videos or blocks them entirely even for videos that don’t actually break any copy write laws. When you do movie reviews, you are allowed to use small snipits of movies. You can challenge YouTube, but that’s a nuisance. We did manage to upload 42 of our 45 episodes so far, but still not the best solution.

We then tried Vimeo. Their free account was useless because there was only enough space for a couple of videos, even though our online episodes are only between 300-400MB each. So we paid $60 for their “Plus” account, but this account only allows users to upload 5GB per week. A time consuming task uploading 45 episodes. But we are up to episode #31 as of today, and so far no copy write issues like YouTube. Vimeo also has a pro account, but it’s more than we want to spend for our public access non-profit videos.

Then we thought why not host the videos ourselves and not deal with these video sharing sites? We already have several hosting accounts for various projects. But this can really put a strain on hosting bandwidth. Our best solution so far is to host the actual videos on Amazon’s servers. Amazon offers lots of server space and very it’s very inexpensive. So, we’ve uploaded our episodes to an Amazon Web Service (AWS) “S3” account and linked the videos to this blog powered by WordPress on a 1and1.com hosting account. It’s nice to have full control over our content and no annoying ads to deal with.

Our Community TV station is also working on videos on demand, so we hope to have our show at graftontv.org as well. Still more work to do on this site and also need to update our Facebook account, which is all linked to blip.tv. So, that is where we are at now.

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My New Friend

Here is a deal I couldn’t resist. I know, I’m weak when it comes to computers.

Netbooks are the hot new gadget started by ASUS with their Eee PC and now Dell, HP and others have jumped on board. Netbooks are not really new, but they are finally powerful enough and priced to sell. The average Netbook runs around $300 to $400, but I picked up a basic Dell Mini 9 for $189! Regular price is $249, but I hit a sale along with a discount and free shipping.

Here is the Inspiron Mini 9 next to my Inspiron 1525 for size comparison. The 1525 is a standard 15.4 inch notebook.
I’ll paste the full specs of the Mini 9 below.

I’ve just started playing with my new friend. The netbook only weighs about 2 lbs. and has a nice shiny black finish. It does come in other colors, but for this deal, a different color would have cost more and I was determined to keep the cost under $200. The netbook feels solid and well-made.

I haven’t used Linux much, so I’m excited to learn my way around the operating system. The initial setup was easy. Of course all the software and drivers are already installed by Dell. The first thing I noticed is how fast the machine boots (in less than 1 minute). This version of Linux is intuitive and windows-like, so no problem finding my way around so far. It also comes with many useful Linux programs and really no crapware that often comes with new computers. Nice!

An upgrade I did consider was to increase the memory from 512MB to 1GM, but after using Linux for a little while, it seems to run just fine on 512MG. It’s responsive and peppy. Another upgrade I considered was the hard drive. The netbook comes with a 4GB solid state drive (kind of like a cameras flash memory, so no moving parts). Again, this is fine for surfing the web, but I considered upgrading so that I would have some storage space for photos when I go on vacation. On my last vacation I took about 5GB of photos. The netbook also comes with a build-in card reader, but my Canon Rebel uses a CF card which can’t be read on the card reader. So, I’ll probably still bring my full-sized laptop on vacations.

It already has Firefox installed, which is my favorite browser, so when I’m on-line, I’d never even know I was using a Linux machine. And since the main job of a netbook is to surf the internet, there is really no reason to pay extra for Windows. From what I’ve read, installing new programs on Linux is not as easy as Windows, but so far I haven’t needed anything that didn’t already come pre-installed.

When connecting to my wireless network, I noticed that the Mini picked up dozens of other area networks, many more than my regular laptop and a nice strong signal. So, I assume it has a pretty good built-in antenna.

The sound is decent for such a small machine. It has two good size speakers just below the monitor. The sound is actually better than my full-sized Inspiron. It also has a built-in headphone and microphone jack.

The monitor is only 9 inches, but bigger than some other netbooks and it is sharp and bright.

This is a neat little tool for email, surfing the web and maybe some basic word processing. It runs Ubuntu very well with just 512MB ram. It has a very small solid-state hard drive, so very little storage space, but storage is not really the purpose of a netbook. So far, I’m very please with the Mini 9. A super netbook for the price. I don’t think I’d be willing to spend more on a netbook.

Full Specs:

— Inspiron Mini 9n —
— Intel® Atom Processor® N270 (1.6GHz/533Mhz FSB/512K cache)
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— MEMORY —
— 512MB DDR2 at 533MHz
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— LCD Panel —
— Glossy 8.9 inch LED display (1024X600)
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— VIDEO —
— Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 950
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— Hard Drive —
— 4GB Solid State Drive
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— OPERATING SYSTEM (Ubuntu) —
— Ubuntu Linux version 8.04.1
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— Sound —
— Base LCD Assembly
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— Wireless —
— Wireless 802.11g Mini Card
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— Camera Module —
— No Camera Option
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— Battery —
— 32WHr Battery (4 cell)
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You Will Dream New Dreams

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You Will Dream New Dreams, edited by Stanley D. Klein, Ph.D. and Kim Schive, published by Kensington Publishing Corp.

Book Review by Richard C. Bissell

Most parents of children with special needs experience periods of obsession over what might have been. They find themselves asking, “what would my child be like if not for…” Many times we struggle to find the good, to find the positive in what life has thrown at us. Wouldn’t it be nice to interact with other families who have “been there,” faced many of the same things that we face, and are willing to share their pain, their dreams, the challenges and their successes with us?

In reading “You Will Dream New Dreams,” inspiring, personal stories written by parents of children with special needs, you can meet some of these people. You can grieve with them, laugh with them, and share in some of their successes. This anthology, edited by Dr. Stanley Klein and Kim Schive, is a revealing glimpse into a world that not very many people are aware of. These stories are real, they are inspiring and they are compassionate. You may not agree with all the choices that these families have made, but you will gain some understanding of what they face. Examine the case of Laura who decides to “place” her child after stipulating that “the most unnatural, abnormal, course of action, would be to place him.” This is not a choice I would make and probably not a choice many of us would make, but her story is certainly one that can be read with compassion.

Not that we spend much of our time criticizing others. In fact, it is judging ourselves that we parents do best. For an interesting outlook on guilt, read how Janice was able to “skip the guilt,” and how Diane was able to “turn obstacles into triumphs.” Many of us can empathize with Diane when she speaks of being “tired beyond belief” and how “friends and family can both strengthen and strain you.” It is easy to feel her pain when she speaks of desiring only to rock, nurse, and take walks with her new baby. Instead she is faced with days of doctor appointments, physical therapies, and medicine administration. Something many of us can relate to. We can also cheer for her and her family as they discover emotional healing and “splendid triumph.”

I found this book to be a very real portrayal of the challenges that we as parents all face when raising children with disabilities. There are not many easy days, but there are many joyful ones. The books main attraction is that is gives us a window into some of the different ways some parents cope and survive during tough times and how many of them are able to dream new dreams even as previous dreams vanish.

None of these stories are very long, so they can be read while waiting at the doctor’s office, sitting through a therapy session or running a tube feeding. Each one of them is from the heart, and they each have a unique message. Most of them are very uplifting, even as they remain true to the challenges of raising special needs children. I believe that Trena sums it up nicely when speaking as an older parent looking back at the challenges of raising a child with disabilities: “To comprehend it . . . is perplexing. To walk it . . . is horrendous. To survive it . . . is a test to the human spirit, a lesson in perseverance, a trip into the twilight zone, and a miracle! To look back on it is awesome!”
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Richard C. Bissell is a registered nurse and the father of three children with disabilities. he lives in Grafton with his wife Cindy and sons Eric, Aaron and Anthony.

January-April 2002

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A Certain Kind of Love

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A Certain Kind of Love, by Deborah Wright and Jean Joy Crowley. Versa Press

This compilation of stories allows us to visit some special families in their own homes and in their hearts. Some of these experiences are a celebration of life and love; others are a tearful reminder of how precious life is and how fragile it can be. But whether tragic or triumphant, each heartfelt story resounds with honesty and emotional integrity. Each story provides the reader with a different perspective and allows us a glimpse into the life of “special needs.”

The death of a child is one of the most horrifying experiences any parent could face. When we read about Jennifer and read her father’s moving and inspiring eulogy we cannot help but be moved.

Cameron’s mother tells us how the love of her son transformed her from a “nervous, naïve, and self- righteous mother to a confident, informed, compassionate, and strong person.” Her honesty and openness are a lesson to each of us. Do you want to know what it is like to be “different” and what an individual who has a disability might feel as he travels through the “able-bodied” world? Read the story of Charles that he has titled simply “My Journey.”

Each of these readings offers encouragement and hope as portrayed in the grief, joy, fear, courage, heartache and unconditional love shown by these families and individuals.

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Cynthia Bissell lives in Grafton, MA, with her husband Richard and 6-year-old twin sons Eric and Aaron. The twins both have disabilities related to their premature births.

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