Picking up my Own Guitar

Category : Guitar
Date : September 4, 2023

When I first started learning guitar, back in January 2022, I started playing with a very old Ibanez. It felt ok and, really, I wasn’t sure that I would stick with it so using that old thing was a low risk way to see how far I could go. I was tempted to get a new one but I just promised myself that if I was still playing and enjoying it after a year, well then I could justify getting my own guitar.

It turned out using that old guitar actually held me back a little. So, yeah, I probably would not have started playing without it but, on the other hand, I probably would have gone farther faster with a better guitar. As I mentioned in my last post, I managed to borrow a Fender Tele when I figured that out after about 8 months. That was a great guitar to practice with and by then I knew that I was going to keep at it. So over the next few months I researched what guitar I would get when I hit that 1 year mark.

Elvis Costello - My Aim is True album cover

I ended up getting a Fender Jaguar.

I’m still not sure why I landed on getting an offset guitar. I think (although TBH I’m not sure) it’s because I’m a big Elvis Costello fan and he has played a Jazzmaster since forever. You can see it front and center on the album cover for “My Aim is True”, his debut album. I guess somewhere in the back of my brain that offset shape imprinted on me early. I didn’t even make the connection until someone pointed it out and then it was, well duh, of course he did.

Fender Squier Contemporary Jaguar guitar
Squier Jaguar

So yeah, around mid-January 2023 I got a Jaguar. More specifically I got a Fender Squier Contemporary Jaguar HH ST in Skyburst Metallic. I did look at the Jazzmaster but the whammy bar seemed like too much and I’d heard that they tend to make it hard to stay in tune.

I ordered from Sylvan Music, a music shop in nearby Santa Cruz that is a Fender dealer. They seemed to be really knowledgeable and friendly. And by friendly, I mean that they did not laugh at me when I asked stupid questions. What? You need a strap to play? Oh, you didn’t bring a pick? No problem; here you go.

They just handed me the guitar and let go off to a small quiet room to play with it for as long as I needed to. That was different from the experience I had when shopping at the massive Guitar Center in San Jose. Just walking around looking at that wall of guitars and having to play in the middle of dozens of other people that seemed so obviously much better players that I was, was just too intimidating for me. I walked out without having touched a guitar.

The Jaguar is a great guitar. I love the sound. I love the feel. I love the look. I leave it on a guitar stand in my home office so that it’s always ready for me to pick up and play. I wish I did that more but I do it enough that I feel like I’m making progress.

Picking up a decent guitar

Category : Guitar
Date : August 6, 2023

In my last post I mentioned that that my son didn’t think that his old Ibanez guitar was really worth much. I was fine with that. I promised myself that if I kept at it for at least a year then I’d buy myself a new guitar. I kind of ignored what my son told me about the Ibanez needing a fret job. I could see that the frets were worn but in my mind I figured that, as a beginner, it didn’t really didn’t really matter. I mean, when you first start playing you’re not supposed to sound great, right? I plowed through the Justin Guitar beginner course and started to be able to play a few chords. I could hear the chords didn’t sound great; there was lots of buzzing. I didn’t mind.

And then in September 2022, my wife and I visited my son and I got a chance to play his new guitar. It was a super low end Epiphone Les Paul (like a $150 guitar) but it shocked me. It was just so much easier to play that one than it was to play the old Ibanez. I think I had been pressing down on the strings much harder than was needed in order to compensate for the worn down frets. That made it harder and more painful to play. I think it also slowed me down a bunch. It took me just a few minutes to realize that I had been working a lot harder than was really needed. It seemed obvious that I needed to replace the Ibanez.

When I got back from that trip I asked Zack, a good friend of mine, who has been playing guitar for years if he could lend me a guitar for a few months. I still wasn’t sure if a different guitar was going to make a big difference and I wasn’t ready to go out and buy new one yet. Zack came through; he lent me a Squier Telecaster. A sweet looking one in Butterscotch Blonde. It sounded great!

When I started playing the Tele it became pretty obvious that I had missed stuff while struggling to learn on the worn Ibanez. I skipped back a few lessons in the Justin Guitar course. It never feels good to do stuff over but this was different. Stuff that I had struggled with got a little easier. Lesson learned! don’t play shitty guitars.

Picking up the guitar

Category : Guitar
Date : July 30, 2023

About 18 months ago I started learning to play the guitar.

I’ve wanted to learn how to play since I was a kid but I could never justify to myself buying a guitar, as it always felt like a whim that I would get over. And then, when I quit, I’d have a guitar sitting in a closet mocking me every time I noticed it.

Ibanez RX-20 guitar
Ibanez RX-20

My son visited us in December 2021. He drove down from B.C. in order to grab a bunch of his stuff to take home with him. He had left a couple guitars with us when he went off to college and when he left this time he took the acoustic guitar with him but decided against taking the electric. He asked that we give it away as he felt it was not worth much.

And that was it. I had a free guitar. A guilt-free guitar that I could use. The guitar he left me was a Ibanez RX-20. It’s a nice looking guitar; basically a Fender Stratocaster knock-off with dual humbucker pickups. Using the serial number I was able to figure out that it was built in Korea by Cort in 1994. None of that mattered. What mattered was that it was enough to get me going.

I did some basic research online and with friends and found many mentions of Justin Sandercoe’s excellent justinguitar.com. So, since sometime in early 2022, I’ve been working my way through the free guitar course there.

It has been slow going and I’ve had to reset a couple of times but I’ll leave that for future posts.

Start your own guitar journey here: https://www.justinguitar.com

Posting again

Category : Guitar, Personal
Date : July 30, 2023

I haven’t posted on this blog since 2015. I recently started learning to play guitar and this feels like the right place to post about that. So kind of a learning log of sorts.

So, yeah, there’ll be more posts here but they will not be technology focused.

The Steady Progress of Storage

Category : Geeking Out
Date : January 23, 2010

I’m building a Windows Media Center for a home theater setup I’m planning and in the process was installing a new hard drive into the PC.  Before I dropped it into the new machine I was showing it to my son and pulled out an old drive I had for comparison.  I was a little taken aback at the contrast of the two drives below.  The one on the left is a 10 megabyte (MB) Seagate ST-412.  The one on the right is a 1 terabyte (TB) Western Digital Caviar.  In case you’re having trouble doing the math in your head, let me help you out.  1TB is roughly equal to 1,000,000MB. So the drive on the right holds roughly about 100,000 times more data than the one on the left.

Comparison of a 10MB Drive with a 1TB Drive
Click to see the full size photo


That Seagate ST-412 on the left is pretty old.  I’ve had it since forever and just use it as a bookend.  For those interested in the history of that drive, that was the first hard drive used in the original IBM PC XT back in 1981.

Good times, good times…  <grumble grumble>


PDC09 Backstage during the keynote

Category : Geeking Out
Date : December 3, 2009

Sitting in the audience of the keynote I never had any idea how much work and how many people were involved in pulling together that one event. This year at PDC, when Ray Ozzie’s keynote kicked off, I pulled out my video camera and walked around back stage recording the organized confusion.  You’ll be amazed at the number of people involved and the amount of equipment.  There were a ton of demos this year so you’ll get a kick out of the incredible number of PC’s and servers we had set up.

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Channel 9:  PDC09 Backstage during the keynote

Enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments section below.


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A Brief History of the Web

Category : Geeking Out
Date : March 19, 2009

Download IE 8 NowUnless you’ve been hiding you have probably heard that we released Internet Explorer 8 today.  I’ve been running it for a few months on all my machines and have been really pleased with stability and performance.  Now is the time to upgrade.  Go do it now. I’ll wait here.


Excellent!  Thanks for doing that.  As a reward for upgrading I’m passing along this set of hilarious videos the IE team put together.  Enjoy!

Remembering Stuff about the Internet


Tweet, Tweet

Category : Dynamics, Geeking Out
Date : February 27, 2009

twit-bird The team organizing convergence have set up a Twitter feed.  If you want to follow along you’ll find them at MBSConvergence.  If you plan to attend and want to tweet while you’re there, the hashtag will be #MBSEVENTS.

blu_badge_bigger While I’m on the topic, I’d like to pass along a couple of Twitter desktop apps that I’ve found pretty cool.  I’m currently bouncing between Witty and Blu.  Witty seems to have much more features but is not that great to look at.  Blu, on the other hand, is unbelievably cool looking.  If there is one great example of how design can transform an experience, Blu is it.  The one big thing I miss with Blu is the ability to resize the main window.  I find it to be just a little too small. 

BTW, If you’d like to follow me on Twitter my tag is benriga.


Using Touch in Line-of-Business Apps

Category : Dynamics, Geeking Out
Date : February 24, 2009

I was mesmerized by this simple but cool Microsoft Surface demo at last fall’s Convergence conference in Copenhagen.  Lachlan Cash was kind enough to let me post the video here as a great example of how touch can transform visualization and manipulation of complex line-of-business information. 

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The demo during Kirill Tatarinov’s keynote session shows top-down heat-map visualization of the bins in a warehouse.  The color-coding gives an immediate view into the status of the warehouse with blue showing cold (i.e. bins with low pick rates) and red showing hot (i.e. bins with high pick rates).  Multi-touch is fully supported on Surface allowing multiple warehouse staff to collaborate while manipulating the data to optimize the warehouse for fast picking.

It’s not clear to me that we’ll see many Surface devices in warehouses as that’s not the initial target market.  On the other hand, as Kirill mentions at the end, this type of innovation gets much more interesting with the new Windows Touch technology in Windows 7.  I can just imagine 60-inch multi-touch displays becoming the control centers of warehouses in the not so distant future.  I hope that this sparks some ideas for how you might use touch in your line-of-business applications using either the Microsoft Surface or Windows 7.




Zack’s Next Gadget

Category : Geeking Out, Mobility
Date : August 14, 2008

Computer Geek Smooch Zack’s response yesterday to my blog post of a few weeks back about my gadget lust got me thinking about this again.  Zack portrays me a keyboard hater so let me say up front that I have nothing against keyboards.  Some of my best friends are keyboards.     Ok so having said that I can say Zack is wrong on this one.  Anyone who’s used a tablet knows that inking is a wonderful thing.  It’s just such a natural way to use a computer when it works right and for the right task.  Touch in general is much more intuitive for most people.  I have one of those new-fangled Microsoft Surface devices just outside my office.  There are no end of folks sitting down to have a play with it.  To see the smiles and hear the giggles just proves to me that from a UI perspective gesturing is so much more natural.  People just get it.

Like I said in my original post Windows Vista is just incredibly good at inking.  And Zack’s post does highlight that most people don’t get that.  Most people have never used tablets.  The original tablets were over-hyped and didn’t deliver.  Follow-on tablets have slowly morphed into convertibles that are neither great laptops nor great tablets.  There’s a breakout moment coming for this category.

Jeff HawkinsAnother item that caught my attention yesterday on this topic is an interview with Jeff Hawkins in Investor’s Business Daily (yes folks I do in fact read them all :)).  Jeff is Palm’s founder and the guy responsible for the stillborn Palm Foleo.  He seems to echo some of the things I said in my original post.

As far as I know the category hasn’t taken off yet, but there’s interest in it.  My opinion has been pretty consistent. When I conceived of the Foleo, which was actually many years ago, it was like a real epiphany for me. I said, “Oh my gosh, people are going to want a small, lightweight solid-state computer” and there would be a demand for it. I personally wanted that product a great deal. I’m a frustrated computer user ? I don’t particularly like using computers.”

In the latter category there were more women (and) people who were more concerned about the weight of carrying things around and people who just didn’t care about having the latest and greatest and most technical sophistication. They wanted a little simplicity. I think there are a lot of those people out there, an awful lot. And the technology world doesn’t acknowledge them as much as they should. They aren’t the people who write the blogs. They aren’t the people who evaluate technology products.  If anything, my career has shown me that
there’s a demand for simplicity and size reduction.  I’m still convinced it’s a great category ready to really take off.

I’ve looked at a couple of the (new netbook-type products) and haven’t seen one yet that hits the right set of ingredients to really be successful. But they’re getting closer.

I think his comments on Palm’s execution of the launch is a little off the mark.  He appears to believe that problems were all about perception and puts most of the blame on the shoulders of Palm marketing.  He clearly doesn’t acknowledge that the product itself missed the target.

“And so this idea of launching it in a virtual way, where we had a lot of people reporting on it and writing about it who weren’t at the D conference, who couldn’t see it and had no way of asking questions about it, led to a lot of misinformation and negative press.”

Finally, one other story caught my attention this week.  Dell has started rolling out their E-Series laptops.  These look pretty good.  Unfortunately, they have not yet announced their netbook that was shown a while back.

DellBattery The feature that did make me sit up and pay attention was the eye-popping 19 hours of battery life (more details in this PDF).  Admittedly this is with a slice attached but even without that, apparently it’s still around 9 hours.  That’s just fantastic.  I’m sure this will be tested but even if Dell comes up a little short this is a turning point.  To be able to go a full work day with out a charge will help Dell sell a lot of laptops.  I know I’ll be looking at them when I upgrade.

Now if only they built a decent netbook tablet.