Wednesday, March 31, 2004

And a pony, too!

In case anyone didn't pick up on it, I don't really have an overwhelming desire for all the things on my birthday list. Sure, they'd all be cool to have, but that doesn't mean I'm actually staying up nights hoping for them. Honest.

On the other hand, if I get any of those things (or the pony!) from anyone, I sure as heck won't send them back. Because they are cool. I'm hoping gamma (that's Grandma) snags the iSight even though I don't really have a use for it, because they can have fun with their grandkid using it to babble with him. And I'd get enjoyment from watching the spectacle. But I don't even need that, really.

You see, I don't really pay significant attention to any holidays, including the traditional gift-giving holidays. I don't really pay much attention to my birthday, either. It's just fun to ask for goofy stuff every now and then, and my birthday is a good excuse.

I guess I'd have to send the pony back, now that I think about it. We just don't have the room. Unless maybe it was one of those midget seeing-eye-type ponies. But that'd be a little too weird, no to mention that you can't really litter-train a pony as far as I know.

Unfortunately, you can't litter-train a toddler, either. If you could, we would have done it by now!

Technical discovery of the day: My friend Mark told me about the Ultimate Boot CD yesterday. I checked it out, and downloaded it when I got home from the BNUG meeting. It's a periodically updated ISO image that has every conceivable free diagnostics, repair, and antivirus tool on it ready-to-use. A must-have in every sysadmin's toolkit, even when the acceptable fix is just to re-CASSI a machine (hint, hint). As far as I can tell, it works on any CD-bootable x86 machine.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Errors and Omissions

I was mistaken - the razor I bought is called the Bump Fighter, not the Bump Stopper. Oops.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Shaving tips

Through a Bravo message board post, I found out what the razor was that Rob M. was given a couple of weeks ago on Queer Eye. It was called the Bump Stopper, and I picked up one at the local CVS yesterday.

You know how every razor advertises "closest shave ever" as their gimmick? Well Bump Stopper is the opposite. It puts a funky covering on the blade to actually keep the blade off your face. As a result, you may wind up with a 5 o' clock shadow by 10AM, but it avoids razor burn and (hopefully) ingrown hairs.

It's funny in a way, because I haven't used a single-blade razor in nearly 20 years. So there's some getting used to it to do.

Also on the list

I'd really love a Red Sox jacket.

One interesting note about power management - I took my Dell home this weekend, leaving it in sleep mode. I never used it, though, and this morning when I plugged it in it was roughly at half-charge.

This compares unfavorably with my old PowerBook, which would lose about half as much over a comparable period when it was new (it's over two years old now, with a degraded battery). Actual usage power consumption remains pretty good, though, on the Dell.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Busy weekend so far

Our friend Jimmy got married today. Whoo! My folks babysat the munchkin while we attended - we got home around 5:30 this afternoon and had a pizza for supper. They all had a blast here in the home without us.

My birthday is coming up in a few weeks. Here's my list of Stuff I Would Love To Own - feel free to get me anything on the list:

- An Apple iSight camera (so David can videoconference with his grandparents and all).
- A 512MB PC2700 SO-DIMM for my iMac. I'd like to stick 768MB total in it. It would help even more when I run Virtual PC.
- A replica WWE Championship belt. The one from Smackdown - not the warmed-over version of the old NWA/WCW belt that they use on Raw.
- You know my camera that I take all the cool Dude pictures with? Well, I'd love one that's pocket-sized. The really small cameras now have equivalent specs to my almost three-year-old Olympus that's much bulkier. 3 megapixels, 3x optical zoom.
- A new extended-life battery for my camcorder.
- I'd also like a few more customers. That would be most cool, as well.

I think I have decent hopes for the last item on the list, and I asked Jane for the SO-DIMM, because they're pretty cheap. Other than that, I don't seriously expect anything.

But if I get the belt, it's going up on the wall of my office. Framed.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Business Irony 101

Way back when, I was working in the retail ad business. One of our customers was Star Markets, a Boston-area institution founded by the Mugar family (Some of you may have heard of David Mugar - he's the fellow who bankrolls the Pops concert on the Esplanade avery July 4th). Many years ago - before my time, Star was sold to American Stores - a rather diverse company that owned, among others, Osco Drug, Jewel Markets, and Acme Markets. They did OK, but I think they were kind of neglected up here in New England (American was Utah-based). So in the mid-90's, A group of Star managers led by former Staples bigwig Henry Nasella bought Star away from American. Star did pretty well under the new management, investing in stores, starting up a natural foods spinoff market, but ultimately sold out - to Shaw's, another New England chain that was owned by J Sainsbury, a large British grocery company.

The marriage worked pretty well - Shaw's stores are primarily in outer Boston suburbs and beyond, while Star was mainly inside the metro Boston area.

Well, this morning it was announced that Sainsbury just sold Shaw's to Albertsons, a huge Idaho-based company. Albertson's has done a superb job of growing through acquisition over recent years. One of their most notable purchases was...

American Stores. They bought them back in 1999. So Star is now right back where they started - just in an even bigger company.

Which is pretty much proof that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Oops.

Memo to self:

When paying bills, don't get so excited that the checks laserprinted correctly on the first try that you forget to sign them. That's kinda dumb.

May I have your attention, please?

Mr. Insincerely M. Sapsuckers - I don't need to see hot babes doing anything online, I married one of my own.
To coolest coolest and kelvin johns - I'm not that interested in m0rtgage rates - in fact, I'm not sure what a m0rtgage is. If it's anything like a mortgage, though, I'm fine. Don't need a new one.
Weirdest P. Narcissistic - no, I don't need any steroids. Same goes for you, Squelching H. Centenarians.
And to Colette Sosa - I really don't need any prescription drugs cheap on the net - I have this thing called a "copay" that lets me buy them cheaply anyway. You should try one.

And to all of you who send me spam in Spanish, Portugese, and whatever Asian language I get (Korean, I think), I don't speak any of them. However, SpamAssassin 2.63 speaks them well enough to keep them all out of my Inbox. Including the above.

What's intersting about these spams isn't the products or services being spammed - it's that spammers know that filtering is common nowadays. So spams have become more and more bizarre and illegible to try and defeat the filters. As a result, though, the spam that makes it through isn't even really comprehensible to the average human, let alone the spam filter. And the human can easily recognize it as spam, making it a no-brainer to delete.

So though the volume of spam has exploded over the last year or so, the anti-spammers are clearly winning. When spam snuck in among your legit e-mails and was cleverly titled to get you to open it, that was one thing. But we don't see those anymore. Current spam is typically blatant - making it easily recognized and deleted.

Now we just need to send Vinnie the Legbreaker to the houses of a few big-time spammers, and the volume should finally start dropping off. Between Bayesian filtering and bodily harm, the incentives to spam should go away.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

A prospectin' we will go

Today I set out to try and do two things - reconnaissance and prospecting. The initial prospecting went well - I followed up on a contact Jane had made earlier, and that was good. However, I broke my voice (which is still recovering from the combination of a cold and teaching a class last week), and could only croak by mid-day.

So after resting it for a while (I had lunch and got some other stuff done in the meanwhile), I set out again to explore. 100 Cummings Center is a huge building - at one point it was the world's largest reinforced concrete structure. I've seen the third floor where my office is, and much of the first floor, so today I went to poke around the second and fourth floors.

It's still huge.

I didn't find a lot of places on those floors that were "JH Turiel-sized" companies - the sort of places with 5-20 employees. I did see a lot of one-man shops and a few huge (75+) type places. Almost everyone, though, had shades drawn and big "No Soliciting" signs in the windows. Not the most inviting, that's for sure.

After doing a little research, I did identify a few that I will need to make some form of contact with, and I'll figure out the best way to do it tonight. I'll drop in on a few places on my floor tomorrow as long as my voice holds out. It's definitely getting better (and I feel fine now), but I have to pace the speaking. Jane's happy, though, because I talk a lot less around the house than usual right now.

Early next week I'm going to go prospecting in the 900 building next door, which has a lot more of the smaller businesses located there. I'm in this building instead because the rents here are a little cheaper, though there are fewer frills.

In other news

My first newspaper ad ran today, with decent placement in the front section. I think they shot my camera-ready printout, though, and didn't use the digital files I uploaded. It's OK - the ad still looks pretty good. Just not quite as crisp as the digital would be.

I also spent a few hours yesterday at a customer site doing billable work. This is, of course, a Good Thing.

My website is getting a facelift, courtesy of a friend of mine who's way better at it than I am. I hope to upload the new site in the next day or two if all goes well.

Now I'm worried

I wrote yesterday that Raw was real strong this week with the "lottery", and that I liked the move of Aich to Smackdown.

Forget that. The results from last night's taping are in, and there was one positive move. Replacing Paul Heyman as Smackdown GM was Kurt Angle. This has loads of potential, as Angle needs time out of the ring because of his persistent neck problems, yet it still keeps him on TV and gives him a mic to work with. He's almost as good on the stick as he is in the ring, which is impressive by definition (For those of you whose only exposure to wrestling is through my blog, Kurt Angle was the legitimate 1996 Olympic freestyle wrestling gold medalist, and one of the most decorated amateurs in history - so that's pretty darned good). So Angle stays on TV while he heals and cuts back on his in-ring activity. Fine.

But here's the screwup. First off, A-Train and Chuck Palumbo go to Raw for Rico and Miss Jackie. Fine, though I liked Chuck in the FBI heel stable. Miss Jackie is better suited to Smackdown, as she has no ring skills whatsoever and is more of a valet. OTOH, her only notable accomplishment as a valet has been falling out of her top a couple of times - and that is easier to get away with on cable than it is on Smackdown's broadcast network. But hey, that's what editing is for.

The other, bigger screwup is this. Smackdown got the Dudleys and Booker T. In exchange, Raw gets...

Triple H. So he's back on Raw, which now loses the opportunity to develop good new heels with Aich squatting on them like the 800-pound gorilla of booking that he is. Tag team wrestling on Raw is doomed, and it's not much better on Smackdown. The spoiler reports from last night's taping in Grand Rapids, MI say that Booker will be going from being one of the most over midcarders around to a heel role - he opened up by running down Smackdown as a "minor league show". You'd think if the writers cared about the plotline at all he'd be happy to be reunited with RVD (who was drafted by Smackdown the night before). And they are taking Bradshaw away from his APA gimmick (beer drinking, cigar chomping good ol' boy) to a Wall Street heel gimmick. Blah.

Just think. A day ago I was enthusiastic about the shakeup. Now it's a bunch of guys Aich already squashed on Smackdown, and he goes right back into his heel faction on Raw. I'll give it a while, but maybe Goldberg and Lesnar made the right move by leaving after Mania.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Dubya's reelection strategy

Anything that goes well - because of tax cuts.

Anything that goes badly - because of something that Clinton did in his term.

Private school, Skull & Bones, Harvard Business, sweetheart deal oilman Bush is more of a regular guy than Private School, old money (the Forbes part), Skull & Bones, war hero, heiress marrying Kerry. Who is really Dukakis in disguise.

That's it in a nutshell. Anyone (besides me) see flaws?

Sorry, I can't help myself...

I promised last week that I'd stop writing about wrestling for a while. Well, I apologize, but it's been more interesting of late than it's been for quite a while - I just can't help but turn back to it.

Last night's "lottery" was a neat plot twist. Six "random" names from each show were drawn and drafted to the other show. Wrestlers, managers, valets, and announcers were all theoretically draftable. The only moves of real note, though, were RVD and Triple H moving from Raw to Smackdown, and a returning (from neck surgery) Edge going to Raw. Paul Heyman (Smackdown "GM") was moved to Raw, but quit and hopped into a waiting limo, giving us the opportunity for a neat plot twist down the road. The hot rumor is that one or more of the WWE weekend shows will be blown up and remade into an ECW-type third show brand, with Heyman running it.

Also noteworthy is that Benoit appears to be developing into a strong champ, with lots of clean submission wins (the most dominating type), and a 1-on-1 scheduled for the next PPV with Shawn Michaels (who looks like they might be trying to give him a heel push). Triple H was given a (Smackdown) title match with Eddy last night as the main event. Surprisingly, it ended in a no-contest as interference was rampant from members of both locker rooms. I expected Aich to get the belt (by the way, Aich is about my size - though bulkier - and I was really surprised by just how small Eddy is. I'd say he can't be taller than 5'9" at most), and was glad to see it stay with Eddy. I hope he gets a decent run with it - the fans are really into him as champ so far.

All in all, Raw was a pretty strong show yesterday. After tonight's Smackdown taping, we'll find out the final state of the rosters ("trades" are supposedly permitted until tonight), and if/who the new Smackdown GM will be. Probably Steph again. Meanwhile, it would have been nice to see a little bit more roster turnover - 8 or 10 would have even been better. The people who really get a bounce out of the move are Edge (though his work on Smackdown was great, he now gets back on the show with all the performers he had great runs with in his tag days, plus he's back on the show with ex-partner Christian), Spike Dudley (instead of being squash material on Raw, he now gets to actually compete with the other smaller guys on Smackdown), and Nidia (who can now wrestle instead of just being a valet). The Benjamin/Haas tag team is split (teased last week on Smackdown during the gauntlet match) with Benjamin getting a shot on Raw. And the talented but not over tag team of Cade and Jindrak was split up as well, Jindrak moving to Thursdays.

Without some changes, the tag team division is all but toast now on both shows - the APA was split up last week so there's only two true teams left on Smackdown (Rikishi/Scotty and the Bashams), and RVD getting sent to Thursdays puts both him and Booker T back in singles, so all Raw really has left are the Dudleys, two of the former three-member La Resistance team (Rene Dupree went to Smackdown) and Evolution's Flair and Batista. The other tag teams on both shows are typically either temporary teams or comedy acts (like Hurricane and Rosey).

And finally for now, I'll give Triple H his props. He's really picked up his ringwork lately, to the point where I no longer fast-forward through his matches. He also seems to have lost some of his excess bulk (as have, mysteriously, a lot of the other wrestlers) Combined with the occasional loss, I can almost accept him again.

Monday, March 22, 2004

On bank-issued gift cards

I like to think about ways people can "hack the system", using things in order to accomplish goals other than those the things are intended for. What I thought of this morning has to do with those gift cards you can get at malls that are simply Visa or MasterCard debit cards that you pre-charge. My sneaky thought is this - I bet people are using them to buy pr0n and other illicit things anonymously. Over the Internet. Despite the relative traceability of Internet connections, all someone has to do is order a gift card and pay with it using cash. Then go and set up a fake identity on Yahoo or someone else's webmail system, complete with a made-up name and address. Go through an anonymizing proxy if you feel it's needed.

Now you have all you need to buy is the illicit goods you want. Physical delivery is obviously an issue, but things like warez access and pr0n can be bought with complete anonymity. Unfortunately, that also means underaged kids could buy bad stuff, too. I'm not sure what you could do about it.

Just FYI, I've had two of these gift cards so far. One was won for winning my golf league title (a $25 Simon mall card), and a $20 card I got for my 133 game two weeks ago in bowling. I did not follow said idea - I used the first one to get a little extra discount on the iMac I bought last fall. The newer one was used to buy myself a copy of Madden '04 for Windows yesterday. No pr0n was bought that way on my part.

I wonder how many people already figured this out?

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Gift of gab

David's begun using simple sentences and phrases now. For instance, I took him out this morning while Jane showered, and we went to a bakery over in Peabody to get some goodies. He was pointing at stuff in the showcase that he thought was neat, so I indulged him and bought a small box of a dozen cookies (two of which were hamentashen for me, but I digress). We gave him a few today. Tonight, after dinner and before bedtime we decided to let him have a treat. So Jane took him into the kitchen and let him pick one - he grabbed a purple one and went around telling everyone (that would be Jane, Gracie, and I) that it was his "purple cookie".

He also answers questions with "yes" and "no". If you ask him if he wants or likes something he'll actually answer you. And he says "hi" a lot on his imaginary phones. He'll give it to you to talk if you ask him nicely.

Today, I wrote to the Fab Five for advice. On last week's Queer Eye, Kyan gave the straight man a razor that was designed for people with curly facial hair (the straight man was black, so it applied to him). Well, I want one for myself - ingrown hairs are a major reason why I detest shaving and prefer growing beards. That and a weak chin (thanks, mom). An optimized razor can't solve the weak chin, but it can help with ingrown hair.

Other than that, it was a low-key ending to the weekend. We assembled the Big Boy Bed for David, but so far Gracie likes it best. We'll try getting him to nap in it this week. We also did a little housecleaning and the like. And finished resting our colds away.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Snore

The cold is almost gone for Jane and I. David is fully operational again.

Meanwhile, I had to get up early this morning to go teach my Linux intro class for a room full of rabid BNUG members. The biggest challenge was modulating my rather frayed voice without benefit of amplification. I believe the session went pretty well - but I didn't stick around the rest of the day to find out. Other than a brief trip out to go get library books and mail our tax returns, I've been drifting between pointless activity and light napping all afternoon. Jane took David out with a friend and her son of similar age to some kid's function a few towns away.

The fun part at the end of a cold is the way your sinuses seem to yield truly massive amounts of nasty stuff. And you wonder where there was room for it all. Humans must have smaller brains than we think we have - it's the only logical explanation.

My first newspaper ads start hitting the street next week. Initially, I'm running for three consecutive weeks and we'll gauge response from there to determine what, if any, frequency I'll run with in the future. Jane also spent most of yesterday out pounding the pavement on my behalf. She's a far more effective salesman than I am - I wish I could afford her full-time.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Snort

My cold is on it's way out. I'm still stuffed up, and I'm clearing my throat more than I'd like, but I feel a lot better today. Plus it appears I didn't wind up really getting this one in my lungs - also a Good Thing. Jane seems to be getting better, too, and David is almost back to normal. So that's handy.

I have the advertising person from the local paper stopping by today to discuss advertising rates. If we come up with something acceptable, I have camera-ready copy for her.

Jane's started doing telemarketing work for me. I'll have to come up with an innovative way to pay her.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

How's your news?

Went to the Smackdown taping last night - OK, not the best live show I've seen. The roof blew off the Garden for John Cena's opening performance, and the hybrid Undertaker (he's still pretty much BikerTaker in his look, but he added his old leather duster and wide-brimmed hat, and Paul Bearer is back as his assistant) got the place jumping at the end. The Mysterio/Guerrero title match was pretty good, too. Unfortunately, all the heat was sucked from the crowd by a "gauntlet" series of matches with Haas, Benjamin, Billy Gunn, Rey, and the Big Show. Opening up a singles series in that order basically guaranteed the crowd would be dead by the time Rey came out. Good pop for Cena again, though, who came out and interfered with the Rey/Show final match (the only practical way to set up a Mysterio win - Rey is barely 5'4", while Show is a little over 7').

We have snow up here right now - last night's drive was interesting, but not too bad. Coming home was slipperier, but there was no traffic out there so it was easy driving. It's fading away now into a flurry.

David's still got the cold, as do we. But he's definitely on the downside of it at this point. I'm not too bad, though my sinuses are kinda clogged up. I sound like Sonny Bono, except unlike him I'm not dead.

Today's a coffee day. Yes indeed. And I'll go to bed pretty early tonight, too. That should just about take care of things. But I'll watch last night's TiVo'd episode of Queer Eye first.

I'm a little concerned with my office DSL service. I was down for a day over last weekend due to an XO outage upstream, and yesterday my service died again around 1PM. Turned out to be a bad line card in the building DSLAM - they moved me to another port and all is now well. But the trend has not been what I like to see.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Monday notes

A lot of wrestling "smarks" like to dis Bill Goldberg. He's got a rep as being difficult in the locker room, limited in the ring, and that he has a huge ego. They don't like seeing him booked as an unstoppable monster, but they hate when he shows any weakness in the ring. Well, since he apparantly didn't renew his contract with WWE, they don't have to worry about him anymore. But I have a different view.

Goldberg isn't a smark's delight like, say, Chris Benoit. He's a mediocre ex-football player (3 years with Atlanta) who just knows the power moves. He was "discovered" and handed a massive push right from day 1 with the old WCW, and WCW was famous as a toxic locker room. What Goldberg brings to the table, though, is an undisputable charisma. He has the "big time" aura around him and the intensity that comes from a background in "real" sports. And despite his reputation, during his year in WWE he did everything they asked of him. He let them get out-talked by the Rock, posed in a wig-wearing skit with Goldust, and booked into a broken-ankle gimmick when he finally feuded with Triple H and got his title run. Even then, though, the feud was booked to be more about Triple H (his attempt to get rid of Goldberg) than about Goldberg as champ.

The point here is that Goldberg's still managed to keep most of his aura intact despite all sorts of misuse. And he's done the job when asked, been OK with his promo work, and good enough in the ring when he's had to be (besides his usual spear-jackhammer-pin squash finishes). WWE doesn't have enough main-eventers like that, and they ought to re-sign him. My only other comments on wrestling for now are that it was nice to see Chris Benoit finally get his due with a Triple H Invitational (I mean, World Title) victory. It's also good to see Eddy keep Smackdown's title for a while longer. Eddy-Angle has the potential to be a good feud that'll carry for a few months if they let it. It was also interesting to turn Trish heel for a change. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's taping (we have really good tickets) in Boston, even if Brock Lesnar quit.

While I work on my presentation for Saturday's training session (see www.bnug.org for details), I'm listening to my latest musical discovery - Nellie McKay. She's a 19-year-old who's a cross between a torch singer, Tori Amos, and Eminem, with a healthy dose of They Might Be Giants' sense of musical humor. Terrific talent, and her debut album is available for $11 on the iTMS.

The new French Toast Pop-Tarts suck. Truly suck.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Lord I was born a gamblin' man

Apologies for the mangled line above...

Last night I went to my friend Jimmy's bachelor party. No nudie bars involved - it was just a small bus overstuffed with people and booze heading down to Foxwoods for dinner and gambling. On the one hand, I had a great time hanging out with everyone - I knew a decent amount of the guys already, and the rest I got to know. Pretty much all good folks and a lot of fun. We made it back to the drop-off point around 3:15 or so in the morning, and then I drove home as quickly as I could. I'm still pretty tired.

The other side of it, though, was a reminder as to why I don't really get much joy out of casino gambling. My mental picture of casinos has always been like a clip from a James Bond film - elegant men in suits and tuxes, beautiful women in strapless dresses throwing dice, dignified yet sexy waitresses serving top-shelf cocktails using lead crystal glasses. The floors aren't super-crowded, the games are all the casino classics for high stakes, and if you pulled anyone there (patrons or staff) aside they'd have a fascinating life story to tell.

But the reality is far different. I've never been to Vegas or any European casinos, but I have been to Atlantic City and both Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun, along with various Carribean casinos over the years. The reality is that a bunch of grungy-looking tourists are playing all sorts of garish poker variations on tables, while most people hope for a huge slot machine payout. Everyone is focused on their gambling with a laser-sighted eye. Last night, a man actually keeled over at one of the craps tables right after I went to get coins - I didn't see it happen but when I walked back over a couple of staffers had blocked off that area while paramedics tried to recuicitate him. And the action continued around him as if he weren't unconscious and possibly dying on the casino floor.

There were people with oxygen tanks being wheeled around in the smoking areas. All night I was seeing toddlers and small kids, with infants actually being carried onto the casino floor in their infant carriers. As we left around 1:30, there were still toddlers afoot.

The thing is, I'm not a big gambler. And I'm not bothered at all with gambling - if people want to part with their money, who am I to say they shouldn't? I play occasional card games, and I buy a scratch ticket or do a quick-pick once in awhile. I think casinos should be built wherever people want to put them.

But those sort of scenes just suck all the potential joy out of gambling with amazing force. There's just a profound wrongness to seeing that kind of scene on the floor of a casino - witnessing the over-the-top desparation that is so prevalent there makes me want nothing more than to shower for about two hours straight when I get home, to wash off the hopelessness that you can't help but to have rub off just a little bit on you.

Even after two hours scrubbing with a loofah, it'd be tough to go to sleep. Fortunately, I was so tired I skipped the shower and went straight to bed. After a good night's sleep, I was only still depressed enough to write this about it.

But I feel much better now. Luckily I won't be going to any casinos again for a while.

Boy status report: he's napping right now. He still has the cold, but the cough is pretty much over, he's just dealing with a runny nose and a sub-standard appetite. His mood is much improved over yesterday, though.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Notes from the field

We went to a party last night - David had fun until he got tuckered out. He's come down with a minor cold (I think this may be his first), with a cough and runny nose. He's OK overall, though - just tired and a little clingier than usual. We're giving him some cough medicine so he can rest easier. It's helping.

I replaced a broken switch for the bathroom lights today. The house is still standing, so that went OK. I also have to put a shock chain on the storm door, but I left my drill at the office so that will likely wait until tomorrow. We are also having a problem with the shower valve not closing right, but I'll have to study up to see if I can fix it or not. I may have to use a pro for that.

On a somewhat related note, I went in to work for a little while this morning. My site is down, and I was pretty sure it's the ISP's fault, but I went in to make sure. It is, in fact, their fault. They are working with their upstream provider (XO) to correct it, but until then no e-mail or website. They hope to be back up later today.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Current events

Today, I picked up my business' brochures at Kinko's this afternoon. I did the design myself - they look pretty good for an amateur. Kinko's prices are pretty reasonable for this stuff, and they do the tri-fold without a huge premium.

I also finished wiring up the office today - I put six cable drops in the wall behind my servers (in the training room), with four going to the other wall of the room and two going into my office. That'll accomodate everything nicely. After I test out the connections and label them (tomorrow, I hope), I'll finally take home my tool chest that's been there since moving weekend. I also have to make a couple of customer phone calls.

Tonight in bowling news - I caught fire in our third game and bowled a 133 - my all-time high score. My old high was in the 120s a year ago. It also ties two other bowlers in the league for season high. If I could have converted the spare in the last frame I could have had it all to myself. Wah.

But it was gift certificate night (a mall gift certificate goes to the bowler on each team who is highest over their average), so I took that home for my trouble. First time that's happened. So between that and the Linksys AP, it's been a lucky week for the Joshster.

Hopefully it carries over into the rest of my life. That would be quite good. But I'll settle for it carrying over to Saturday night. I'm going to a bachelor party that night and we're headed to Foxwoods. So if I still have the luck then, I'll be rich when I get home. Cool.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I gots da luck, oh yeah!

I won the door prize at last night's BNUG meeting - a Linksys WAP54G 802.11g access point. Very cool, and the first prize I've won at a meeting in a long time.

So that's good. I don't have a burning need for it right now though, so if anyone wants to take it off my hands, please e-mail me and I'll give you a good price. I already have an SMC Barricade here at work I use as an AP, and I have an old AirPort base station at home.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Wrestling news

I may have to go over to my friend's house this Sunday for Wrestlemania. Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, my all-time favorite from the Good Old Days, if supposedly going to be in the corner for Rock and Mick Foley in their match. With the Rock and Sock Connection going up against Randy Orton, Batista, and ultimate legend Ric Flair (who can still work a great match with a broom if need be), it'll be worth the price of admission for that alone if they give the match the 1/2 hour or more it deserves. My prediction: Flair's team (Evolution) loses the match in order to blow off the Orton/Foley feud that's been brewing for the last few months. But they can still get over big while losing due to outside interference or something of the sort that backfires on them - Rock is just making a one-time appearance in between movies and Foley is only doing the occasional spot to help other wrestlers get over now. But the fans'll riot without a Rock/Foley win so that'll probably happen.

Also, I missed it (no radio here at work), but Dale Arnold had John Cena on the "Dale and Neumy" show yesterday on WEEI. From the report I read, Cena was pretty good in the interview. Since he's a local guy and Dale's a wrestling fan they completely broke kayfabe, but that's cool by me. Cena's got loads of potential and is probably the next big breakout star they have. It's amazing to think that he's only been up with the organization for less than two years.

Oh yeah, one other thing. Johnny Blaze or Johnnie Spade - whatever you call him, the kid's got personality.

Junk faxes

At my office I have two phone lines. Some idiot keeps sending me faxes on the second line, even though I don't have a fax online at all (nor do I have a published fax number). It's because of idiots like that, by the way.

In the week and a half I've been in here, I've gotten about ten or more messages on voicemail that turned out to be fax tones. If I identify the culprit, they will be at risk of injury.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Computing reviews

As part of the work in setting up my office's classroom, I purchased a Dell Inspiron 600m to use as a system for doing presentations, taking out to customers, doing desktop work, and so on. It's my first Wintel laptop in several years - at Holyoke Mutual, I used both Dell and Gateway laptops until mid 2002 - when I switched to a Gateway desktop (them a Compaq for my last few months). So my PC laptop experience tops out at a 650 MHz P3-based Gateway that couldn't use more than 512MB of RAM and was huge - it had a 15.4" screen and weighed about 9 pounds.

So just on that basis alone, unboxing the 600m was worth it. I purchased it in a configuration with a 40GB hard drive, DVD/CD-RW combo drive, built-in 802.11b/g and Bluetooth (via a mini-PCI card), 256MB of RAM, and the 14.1" SXGA+ (1400x1050) screen. The system also includes as standard a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port and a V.92 modem, as well as USB 2.0 ports and S-Video output. Thinking I might someday actually have the time to play a game on it, I splurged for the extra $30 to buy the 64MB version of the mobile Radeon 9000 video card. I paid for an XP Pro license (an extra $79), and the system arrived about a week later.

The 600m uses Intel's 855PM chipset running at a 400MHz clock. Mine uses the Pentium M processor at 1.5 GHz - it's available on this model at all the points between 1.4 and 1.7 GHz as well. My wireless card was the Dell TrueMobile 802.11b/g card - otherwise they would have stuck a Centrino label on the laptop (Intel only allows systems with the Intel-supplied 802.11b card to carry the Centrino designation - but their card does b only, so I blew it off). Pentium M has 1MB of L2 cache on-die. An antenna is provided in the chassis that the 802.11 card can use.

As a 2-spindle laptop, there are no provisions for a built-in floppy drive. I don't consider this a problem, as it's been years since I built a system that uses them. Since I'd last used Dell, they now provide a BIOS updater that can run from Windows, which is quite civilized of them. I use a 256MB flash key instead when I need a portable disk, anyway - and the 600m can boot from one.

After I first received the laptop, I tried initially to run through the Dell setup (simple enough), and then strip out all the garbage I didn't want. I have both an MS Open License for Office and separate licenses through the partner program, so I'd ordered it with as little software as possible. Unfortunately, that meant uninstalling the Word Perfect Essentials suite. I also uninstalled the McAfee build that was supplied, and most of the Dell utilities.

Then, I made a mistake. I bought a 256MB SO-DIMM at CompUSA that mathced the specs for this laptop (PC2700, 2.5T), but soon after installing it wound up with random crashes. Thinking that it was probably software cruft, I plunged on with the reconfiguration only to wind up with an unusable system. I couldn't get it back easily after yanking the bad DIMM, so I simply blew it away and started from scratch (what I should have done all along). After returning the faulty DIMM, I ordered one for less money from Crucial, and it's humming away now (the 600m ships with a Micron DIMM anyhow, so one more is good).

After re-installing Windows and Office, the laptop has been rock-solid since. For a quick speed test, I installed VirtualPC on both the 600m and a Celeron 2.4GHz-based desktop system (a Shuttle SFF box), then installed Mandrake Linux on both. Despite the faster clock speed, the Shuttle with its shared video memory and lack of L2 cache was noticeably slower on most operations, and completed the install fully 20 minutes later than the 600m (despite the faster disk drive and ATA-133 support on the Shuttle). I was impressed by that, especially since the Shuttle makes a perfectly adequate server.

The screen is impressive, though the pixels are even tinier than I feared they'd be. Reading glasses may be in my future sooner than I hoped :-( meanwhile the Radeon is an impressive performer. Screen painting is almost imperceptible, and the screen's quality is top-notch. I haven't identified any dead pixels or stuck spots on the LCD, and viewability is good at most realistic angles.

I haven't tried CD burning yet, but the read speeds are fine. Some discs have been kind of noisy and unstable-sounding on access, but so far that hasn't translated into any read errors. The system weight is good - all this function is packed into a little over 5 pounds, and it feels fairly substantial despite the low weight. Traditionally, I've seen PC laptops seem kind of on the flimsy side so it's good to see a model that does it right.

The good? Well, as I mentioned it's pleasantly quick. I'd like to see it with a higher-performance HD in there, but I have better things to do with my company money than find out how much better it would be. Wireless performance is excellent - there's an advantage to a cheapish plastic case, and that's that the antenna has little to block it. I can go a good way down the hall of my office building and still get a signal, and I can get a signal from my home AirPort down in the cellar, when the base station is up on the top floor of the house. The memory and mini-PCI cards are easy to access, and battery life is pretty good for an Intel box. The keyboard is better than I usually see on a laptop. The built-in function keys are well-labeled and intuitive.

The bad? Well, it runs hotter than I expected, given the Pentium M's reputation for stingy power management. It's not painfully hot, but it's hotter than I would like to see on battery power. Battery life so far has been in the 3-3.5 hour range, but I haven't really optimized the power settings like I should. I expect to drive it up over the 4-hour mark ultimately. The 600m ships with a standard 48WH battery, and a second one is available to go into the CD bay (the drive is hot-swappable) for extended run time. I don't have that, though. And the trackpad, though responsive, suffers from buttons that take way too much force to operate. I also don't like the flimsy protection on the docking connector doors. I taped it shut.

All in all, the Dell Inspiron 600m is a solid mid-range laptop - it doesn't have the extreme battery life and portability of the smallest models, and it doesn't have the all-out desktop-esque performance of the big ones, but it does quite nicely in the little niche of "good laptops that do nothing horribly and nothing spectacular". And the price is right - this laptop cost under $1500 fully equipped. It's not the $700 laptop you'll see advertised in places (even from Dell), but it's a good value for the money.

Of course it's not a G5-based PowerBook, but until there is such a thing (and my business is doing well enough to let me buy one on impulse) it'll do fine.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Appreciation

After nearly seven months of being home every day and seeing my son in the morning, this week was the first time I left him for the day for five consecutive days since the beginning of August, 2003.

As a result, I've appreciated him that much more when I've been home. Of course, I'm not sure he notices I've been gone, but that's besides the point. The first thing I do when I get home (assuming he's up from his nap) is spend about a half hour smothering him. He doesn't seem to mind.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Political message of the day...

Free Martha!

Not that she's innocent - I really doubt it. The reason she should be let loose is because it's a ridiculous, politically motivated prosecution that spent millions of taxpayer dollars over a few thousand in supposedly ill-gotten gains. And the biggest government charge (securities fraud, which got thrown out) was silly - her alleged crime there was lying about her guilt to stockholders before there was even a trial. Securities law has plenty of goofy things like that tucked away inside. The reason they went after her was for the political imagery that comes when you take somebody out of a courthouse in handcuffs with a raincoat over her head.

Thank goodness I'm my company's only stockholder.

It makes for some contentious board meetings, though!

About Google searches

One thing Google uses to determine page rankings in response to a search is to see how many pages refer to it. As an example, this link used to be up towards the top of the "Holyoke Mutual" ranking (I was not the photographer, by the way). It's since faded from the top page.

But I wouldn't be surprised if this link started nudging it back up the rankings again...

My trick is spreading...

Many moons ago, I wrote about a thing I'd started doing which I called "junkjamming". I took junk mail (mainly financial - credit card offers and such), shredded it, put the remains back in the vendor's business reply envelope, and sent it back to them. Once in a while I'd all bonus junkmail to the returns.

Well, here's a link to someone else who does much the same, but with even more nasty tricks involved. I heartily approve. I saw this through a K5 link, even though I don't read there as much as I used to.

Whoever says bowling isn't exercise...

Hasn't bowled.

I'm not equating bowling with running marathons or anything, mind you - but it is legitimate, mild exercise.

Or, if you bowl like I do, it's more like moderate exercise. Because I bowl with extreme aggression - running way too fast and throwing the ball way too hard. If I toned it down, my average would probably be a lot higher than in the 80's. I'm pretty sure of that.

The other reason I know it's exercise is because my legs are rather sore today.

Fortunately for my creaky old body, there's only two more weeks left in the season before I turn my attention to a much more sedate pursuit - golf.

That and making money.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Progress

I finally got my business bank accounts set up today. It's taken me a while to get free time during banking hours.

Also, construction is finally complete. The VGA extension cable and missing desk part arrived yesterday, and last night I got an power extension cord and a correct, intact window blind for the front door. I assembled the desk last night, and took care of everything else this morning. I still have to do a little dust cleanup, though, because the cordless vac ran out of juice. But I got most of the gunk up.

I have one client appontment next week, and the next invoice I issue will be number 2 - number 1 went out yesterday.

Last but not least for now - I'm looking at my spam inbox, and I think the greatest spammer name ever may be "Hyperbolic P. Firehouses". I didn't open the message, of course, but apparently good old Hy wants me to know that the girl next door says hello.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Day 2

Things are pretty much in order. I am working today on my first ad flyer and I'm also installing Windows Server 2003 on one of my server boxes. Jane came over with David for a quick lunch and to go see the Bright Horizons daycare center here on-site. She would have been here sooner, but she got kinda lost in the building.

It's a big building.

Really big.

Otherwise, I'm a typical dot-com - I have no revenue, an infrastructure, and a facility. In the old days, I'd be public by now. Nowadays I have to troll for customers.

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