Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Cellphone problem solved (for now)

Cingular was able to reset my phone and get GPRS access working again. Speed is OK today. What I may do, though, is try out the Verizon solution as well and see if it performs better in real-world usage. I get 15 days to see if it'll get the job done with the right to cancel.

What I'll do is drop in at the local Verizon store this afternoon and bring my PowerBook for a test. Having acceptable Internet access available through a wireless connection of some sort is pretty much a must-have for me when I'm in the field. The advantage to Verizon would be somewhat better speeds, and the ability to use my cellphone separately while I'm using the Internet. The advantage to sticking with Cingular GPRS is that I can use one device for both voice and data, plus I don't have to worry about using a PC Card (which Verizon uses) - as I can just connect to my cell phone with Bluetooth. I like Bluetooth.

Ultimately the question is which one will make me more productive. That remains TBD.

Today I got a packet in the mail from Microsoft. They sent me a free 128MB USB thumb drive with their logo on it as a Partner goodie. I do like those folks sometimes...

Waahhh!

I just got a quarterly ACN (Apple Consultants Network) e-mail offering me some rather sweet promotional deals:

$600 off the new dually 2.5 GHz PowerMac G5
$400 off an iMac G4 17"
$100 off any accessory purchase of $499 or more (like the 40GB iPod, for instance)
$50 off an AirPort Extreme Base Station

Unfortunately, I don't need any of these (I already own an iMac at home, and I use my trusty old PowerBook that's still for sale at work). But man, I wish I did...

I made my own coffee again at home today. I gotta learn how to make it a little weaker. On the other hand, there's a certain appeal to typing at about 300 wpm.

Thump

Last night, around 3-ish, I was jolted awake by a large "thump", which was followed by quiet crying. Jane went to investigate, and found David on the floor next to his bed. The bed has short rails that extend a little less than halfway down, so when he flops to the foot of the bed falling off is a risk.

Anyhow, she brought him in our room for a couple of minutes, where I nuzzled him and helped ease him back to sleep while she changed his diaper. Total time in our room - about 4 minutes. And he didn't really even know he was there. Jane took him right back into his room to go back to sleep and he did so.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Outage report

The power outage was over by about 9:40 or so - it lasted just over an hour and a half. My Mini-ITX server and Internet service remained up the whole time, as my iMac could have (but I shut it down just before the end). Afterwards, I reset the handful of powered clocks, but the phone system had a backup battery of its own so I didn't have to take care of that one.

Once we had light again David got to enjoy a quick bath.

Lately, he's just figured out how to say "thank you", and he's going through a bit of a cleanliness kick. He hates finding dirt on his feet. We're trying to get him over it as effectively as we can.

In other news, Cingular's higher-level tech folks don't have my GPRS problem solved yet (I spoke to their folks this morning). As much as it was neat, I'm starting to think that maybe the Verizon data service is a better bet now that they released a Mac driver for their PC Card.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Juiceless

We are having a power outage right now. It's up and down the street from us, but pretty localized otherwise (within a block or two to either side of the street, there's power).

However, I have ample battery power and am upstairs, watching Raw on my EyeTV and typing this blog entry. Meanwhile, the repair crews are nearby and I hope to have air conditioning back soon.

Apple Analysis

Today at WWDC, Apple announced one new hardware product line and unveiled the new MacOS 10.4 "Tiger" for the faithful developers.

The new hardware product line features 3 new flat-panel monitors - 20", 23", and 30" displays clad with the same aluminum look shared by the PowerBooks and PowerMac G5. The 30" display looks gorgeous - it only works with the PowerMac because it requires a special version of the nVidia GeForce 6800 card with two outputs and two GPUs. The card takes up two slots' worth of space and costs an additional $600. The new displays are pretty, but at $1299 for the lowest-end 20" display, I'm a little concerned about the lack of anything in the $500-$1000 range. The old 17" display has been discontinued (and is being cleared out for $700 while they last. The 23" display price remains unchanged at $1999, and the new 30" will set you back a whopping $3299 before the video card price is factored in. Apple also built in both USB and Firewire hubs into the new displays, and dumped the elegant but nonstandard ADC in favor of standard DVI for the interface.

As for Tiger, this is the first in the "we're going to slow down development" OS releases. They currently plan to ship in the Winter/Spring '05 timeframe instead of the usual October season. That'll make for about an 18-month life cycle for Panther.

Features-wise, it's mainly mo' betta' of the same stuff, plus RSS support in Safari, Konfabulator's (a program that lets you build simple "widget" apps out of JavaScript) capabilities built-in (hopefully they don't get screwed), better searching, more thorough .Mac synchronization support, improved video conferencing, a cool new assistant for AppleScript writing, newer Xcode with all sorts of 64-bit goodness, and still more GPU-accelerated stuff in the UI.

Really cool, but we'll see how compelling it'll turn out to be as we get closer to ship date. I'll probably get seeds of it from Apple as an ACN member.

In other news, Karelia Software announced that Watson, their marvelous program for easy access to web stuff, has been sold to a Really Big Company (I suspect Sun), and is going away in October. I use it mainly for programming my eyeTV, but I'm interested to see what the replacement turns out to be (and if they give us an upgrade path).

Cellular update

I tried again this morning to get my cell phone working for Internet access again. After a lengthy call to Cingular support, we had the handset itself working again, but the first try at a modem connection killed it.

So I called in again, working this time with a couple of higher-level folks. The consensus seems to be that the Thursday silver bullet they sent me may have screwed a switch setting up. The higher-level of the two techs is looking into it off-line and plans to call me back later this afternoon. We shall see. It worked fine until the prior update, so maybe they just have to undo something.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Random Synapse Firings

Just got back from Connecticut - a baby shower for my sister, who is just about ready to pop. This will be the second grandkid for my folks, and we're all looking forward to it. David wants a playmate.

- I know NASCAR's huge and all, but I think I have the key to making it even bigger. We already have car and truck divisions, now we need a minivan division as well. I wanna see Dale Earnhardt, Jr. blasting into a turn at a blazing 70 MPH in his NASCAR-modified Chevy Venture.

- Coffeenerdness (with apologies to the vacationing Peter King): When driving on the Mass. Pike, do not get a latte from Lavazza. At pain of death. Not only is the $3.30 medium size tiny, but it tasted like they forced battery acid through the grounds instead of water. Brutal. Worst. Latte. Ever.

- I may have spoken too soon on the GPRS thing working right. I tried to use it yesterday, and got a "GPRS Parameters Not Supported" error message on the cell phone. Same thing in stand-alone. I'll have to see if it needs to be re-zapped from far away. It worked after the first reload.

- Guilty pleasures: I feel ashamed to admit it, but I really like listening to Sophie B. Hawkins. I know it's overproduced synth-pop. but her voice is just so darned nice...

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Greetings and Salutations!

If you've come here from the Macintouch link: I have a couple of cell phone essays lower on this front page, and several more in the January/February '04 archive pages. There's also miscellaneous other tech essays and reviews here as well. You just have to filter through the gibberish, political rants, talk about my son, and wrestling analysis to get there. Enjoy the ride!

Friday, June 25, 2004

Minor Regrets

I've decided I have one great regret in life. So far. At least, over the last couple of years.

And that is trading in my Olds Bravada last year for my current Chevy Venture minivan. It's not so much that I hate my Chevy - I don't. Actually, the Chevy is a pretty nice vehicle. But the Olds was sweet.

By buying the Chevy, I gained:
- lots of cargo space
- two additional seats
- better gas mileage (especially on the highway) and a bigger tank by 7 gallons' worth
- Fewer new model "bugs", since the Bravada was a brand-new design, while the Venture is a few years into the model
- A better dealership for support (Hillcrest Chevy in Salem - they're pretty good)
- LATCH system compatibility for easer car seat maintenance

But I gave up:
- Outboard turn signals
- Auto-dimming mirrors
- Outside mirrors that tilt down in reverse
- OnStar
- Better quality sound
- Climate control that used an actual thermostat
- A generally nicer driving experience
- Better foul-weather handling (but not by much - both vehicles have AWD)
- Better heated seats that were adjustable both back and bottom
- Lumbar supports
- About $7000 or so worth of cash

Now that we don't need to travel with as much crud for the little guy, the cargo capacity wouldn't be missed too badly. And the extra passenger capacity is nice, but not critical. But I could use the cash (couldn't we all), and I just plain liked the Olds more.

Wah.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Yeah, I'm buyin' this

When you go to a supermarket, do you look for a label that reads this elegantly?

I'll stick to the organic beef, thank you very much.

Minor Cellular Glitch

When Cingular reset my account yesterday to enable the new features, they also fixed an issue the rep noticed where my phone had multiple IMEI numbers associated with my phone's account. However, after the programming update was completed, I noticed a couple of changes once I left for a walk:

- First, the phone kept preferring the roaming carrier. Which would generate a time zone update message that I had to manually accept.

- Secondly, when I roam, I drop the GPRS coverage signal. No problem, except that preferring the roaming carrier means that I'd often be without GPRS signal, and when I came out of roam and picked Cingular back up again I wouldn't reacquire GPRS.

I called their customer service last night but wasn't able to get it figured out - but when I called them this morning I got someone who understood the problem and was able to reset my phone for me. After a reload (by them) followed by a reboot (by me), all is well again. I went for a short stroll to test it.

Interestingly, Cingular has a poor reputation for customer service. But other than the one thing last night (where they were polite and friendly, but unable to solve the problem) all my calls to customer service have been just fine. And most of the people I talk to seem to have a good clue as well.

The only pet peeve I have about their service versus T-Mobile is this: when I accessed voicemail from my T-Mobile phone, their system recognized I was calling from my cell and didn't require me to use a passcode. Cingular's voicemail system isn't that bright. So I always have to use my code, which can be a little distracting and inconvenient at times. But that's my only real peeve. Otherwise their coverage is much better, their support is good, and their pricing is competitive.

The danger of balanced reports

In this article (I read it on Salon, but it's on the AP wire), there's a particularly disturbing quote most of the way down:

The battle against the disease has stalled in the face of resistance to immunization programs in Nigeria's heavily Muslim Kano state.

Some Islamic leaders claimed that the vaccines were part of a U.S.-led plot to spread infertility and AIDS among African Muslims. Nigerian federal officials and the United Nations deny the claims.


Why is this disturbing (the article is on Polio outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa)? Well, for starters, it actually makes the claim of a US plot sound almost worth dismissing with the simple sentence about denial that follows the accusation. I know that the job of a reporter is to report both sides of an issue, but sometimes one side is so obviously idiotic that to report it without pointing out the stupidity behind it gives unwarranted legitimacy to the morons.

For further proof of this, see the GW Bush campaign from 2000. It got them elected.

Technical Projects

Projects I am working on right now for either business or personal/business purposes:

- Pre-configuring new router (well, actually it's a leftover) with wireless support for replacing the one currently in use by my parents. I'm setting it up with a pre-punched hole for Apple Remote Desktop support so i can help them when they have problems. The wireless support is so I can use their network with my PowerBook when I visit (unless I sell it, but then I'll probably get another). This is the router I paid negative $5 for, so don't worry, Mom and Dad.

- Learning the ClarkConnect SOHO Linux system, as a potential replacement for SME Server if that project bogs down. It also has some neat capabilities in the base product I'd like to learn about.

- Setting up VPN support for my office LAN that supports NAT passthru.

- Just finished: remove SharePoint from my SBS box at work. I'm not going to be deploying SharePoint in the network I'm building for a client, nor do I need it for the me/myself/I network I run at the office. That also simplifies things from a maintenance standpoint and let me remove a MSDE instance.

- Make the necessary changes to allow me to use Exchange as my primary MTA. This isn't because I love Exchange, it's because I love OWA. And I like the challenge of locking it down.

- Work out deployment schedule for the above-mentioned SBS network I'm doing.

- Brush up on my DV editing skills for another client. They use Final Cut Pro, but from the nature of the project it may be overkill.

- Debug a problem that I run into with jobs stalling occasionally on the HP Laserjet 1200 I use at home. It's on a print server, which is where I suspect the issue lies. But it's low-priority since it's for me, and not for a paying customer.

- Debug a problem on my Dell laptop that causes it to BSOD when I insert a flash device - either through USB or via the PC Card interface. Annoying, but not too important. And flash cards put into my Epson printer's flash slots work fine. Go figure.

- Build a couple more Ghost images for the Dells in my training lab - they need a couple of other configurations to be available.

- Once I get OWA established, test MS Entourage's support for Exchange via OWA. It could make SBS a viable solution for small Mac networks if they don't go Panther Server/Xserve. I have a client for whom this may be a consideration.

And several others not sufficiently glamourous to mention.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Iraq redux

I've posted my feelings about Dubya's little military adventure before (as you may be able to tell from the tone, I disapprove of it). I think we were idiots to go in there, I think there was no valid reason to do so, and I think we're going about the reconstruction all wrong.

That said, we can't afford to throw out the tiny bit of international credibility we still have by pulling out altogether. But we can't afford to screw it up, either.

Iraq wasn't a terrorist haven before. Now it is. Thanks to us. And these terrorists have determined that the best way to get us out is to kidnap random foreigners (preferably Americans), cut their heads off on-camera, and post the videos on their website.

Well, I have a strong reaction to that, like they're hoping. But my reaction isn't the one they're hoping for. I'm still of the opinion that we should fix this as best we can, and get out as soon as is realistically feasible. But before we can, we need to kill every one of the terrorists (or "insurgents") in Iraq, mutilate their corpses, and leave their remains out in the desert for pigs to feed on. Every single one of them.

Then, we can leave what's left of Iraq to whoever's left of the Iraqis, and get the hell out.

Thanks for nothing, Dubya. I hope every one of those videotapes leaves you waking up screaming in the middle of the night. But I don't think you have the depth for it.

Swank!

I just tried to use the GPRS connection. I did have to disable Salling Clicker, because apparently the T616 can't walk and chew gum at the same time - but once I did that the connection worked great. I'll try a speed test later, but my estimate is that I'm getting about 100k effective throughput.

If anyone wants connection details (useful for Mac/Sony Ericsson/Cingular users), e-mail me and I'll pass them on to you.

Wireless fun

I've used my cell phone a lot for business since opening my doors in March - basically, whenever I'm out I forward my office phone to it. And with upcoming travel in the next while, I have Internet needs that I won't be able to accomodate as-is.

So I went hunting at Cingular's site for ideas. Since switching to their service in January, they've revised their plans somewhat. It turns out that I could upgrade my cell plan to one giving me 200 more minutes in the pool, plus unlimited mobile-to-mobile for $10 per month more than I've been paying. Since Jane and her mom talk frequently via cell, that takes all those minutes they've been using out of the pool and frees them up for business use. A no-brainer.

Then, I looked at the Internet side. Since buying my T616 (which I use via Bluetooth with my PowerBook), Cingular added a plan called "Media Works". Media Works gives you unlimited GPRS connection time for $5 per month more than my existing plan's MMS/Internet was costing. I took that, too.

In order to switch it on, Cingular downloaded an update to my phone remotely, and then I rebooted it. Now I can use the phone as a GPRS modem with unlimited connect time - from what I understand the connect speeds should range from about 56k to 150k depending on location.

This all means that my office is now truly mobile - and can work from virtually anywhere I can get a cell signal. Sweet.

Bloat

By the way, at the Expo yesterday my long-time nemesis was there. Coffee Time Bakery.

I had a cup of coffee, an apple danish, and two blueberry bismarks (mini ones, at least). Jane made it worse when she brought me a piece of strawberry shortcake, too.

I did an extra set on the weights last night in penance.

I mentioned in my evening entry our difficulty in getting David to bed. Well, a few minutes after uploading the post, we had to go in and settle him down. He asked us to go in the crib, so rather than doing that I finally dismantled it entirely. I was going to do it this weekend originally, anyway. The mattress we kept for travel, but the rest of it is in the attic now. And then I moved his bed where the crib had been (a much better spot for it), and moved a chair to the big empty space where the bed had been. With the changing table (a few weeks ago) and crib removed, his room is now pretty spacious.

That did the trick until about 2AM, when he hit his between-REM phase. He usually wakes slightly at that point, but last night it was bad. We brought him in for a while to comfort him, and he burrowed right into my armpit until he passed out finally for good about 15-20 minutes later. Then Jane brought him back into his bedrrom - I think he slept through it and all the rest of the night.

The good news on the family front is that my dad's been cleared to drive again. That makes me happy in ways I can't even describe.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

I - am - a - businessman, dangit!

Today was the Salem State Enterprise Center's Small Business Expo. It was cosponsored by virtually all the local chambers of commerce, and I had a table. At the table, I had three posters that Kinko's whipped up for me (and I may have found a bug in the current Creator betas in the process). I also had a couple of tabletop signs, brochure holders, and both a Mac and Windows laptop, each locked to the table and running a loop of a Keynote slideshow I made to shill my business. To get it on the PC, I exported it as a Quicktime movie and looped it. It was a quite professional-looking booth if I do say so myself, and the signage is all re-usable.

The show itself went pretty well. My jacket went unworn, as the O'Keefe Center on campus where the show was isn't air conditioned - and it was a pretty sticky day today. I think I may be showering before bed tonight. I picked up a few good leads, one of which I will be talking to tomorrow. Jane will be following up on the rest - she was there selling until 1, and then our friend Judy came over and worked the rest of the afternoon. I left about 5:30, and paid the ladies by ordering Chinese takeout after returning home.

David's been kinda difficult the last day or two - he's not visibly sick but has been running intermittent low-grade fevers. When they hit, a little ibuprofen knocks it right down, but today he was very whiny until after his nap. He had a grand time with dinner, though - not only does he really like Chinese food, but he loves showing off for Judy. Getting him calmed down enough for bed tonight was a chore.

The rest of the week looks to be fairly busy. Which is good.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Just so you all know...

Kinko's freakin' rocks.

It turned out I was nearly out of brochures - so I just ordered up another 300, uploaded the PDF they'd generated back in March of my brochure design, and I can pick them up at 6.

That is just most excellent.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Whoo.

The week ended with most of Friday helping my new client up north. I managed to get a _lot_ of outstanding issues resolved up there, and I completed the vendor specs for my other customer.

Yesterday was simply spent doing a few errands in preparation for the upcoming Small Business Expo on Tuesday (I've got a booth), and troubleshooting some PDF files I'd sent to Kinko's for output.

And we went out for a little while to pick stuff up at Staples for the Expo today. Boring. We did head down to Swampscott in the early evening to let David run around on the beach - which is a lot of fun at low tide down there. He enjoyed it, and that was possibly the only thing he enjoyed all day. What a mood he was in...

Mainly, though, I spent Fathers' Day being lazy. Which was pretty cool.

Friday, June 18, 2004

busybusybusybusy

The last two days have consisted of completing the assembly of a network replacement quote for a customer here in the complex that requires coordinating three separate vendors - that's finally done today after I get one more e-mail for the server quote.

Then, I have to go back up to a customer in Boxford that I spent five hours helping yesterday. We have some more work to do today.

After that, I have some work to do for a couple more customers of mine, but minor stuff.

In other words, I'm kinda busy right now. Which is good.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Eureka - a sign!

Last night, after David's bath, we were dressing him for bed. After Jane got his diaper on, he started trying to get out of his room and was shouting something we thought was "daddy" (I was in the other room right then). I came in as requested only for us to realize he was actually shouting "potty!", so we let him go running into the bathroom and helped him get his diaper off.

And then he flipped up the lid and sat down on the potty.

Nothing happened, of course, but that was neat to see him show real interest in it.

I golfed yesterday, and it was One Of Those Rounds. Shot a 53, which is straight double-bogey golf and not truly horrible, but it was the kind of round where for every brilliant shot I would answer with a mediocre one. I started the first hole, for instance, by hitting a short drive with topspin that only went about 150 yards. Then I answered with a perfect 200 yard shot with my Tight Lies that landed just short and slightly right of the green. But then I chipped all the way over the green. Wasting a shot completely. Chip back on, two-putt - six.

That was typical of the round. On Four, I hit arguably my best drive of the season so far - a 290-yard blast down the left edge of the fairway that got a perfect roll to leave me with maybe 230 to the green. What did I do? Topped it, and hit a flubber about 100 yards. Third ball just short of the left front bunker, chip to the fringe, putt from the fringe, and lipped out the bogey putt for a tap-in seven.

And so on. I've played worse, but I've also played a heck of a lot better.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

You are getting veeerrry sleepy...

Last night, we put David down at around 9:45 after an exciting night of playing with Harry and Isabel (their family came over for dinner). He seemed pooped, but then spent the next 45 minutes popping out of bed constantly to play jokes on us.

Here's the typical one: He'd get up, run to the door (we could hear him), rattle the know and knock a few times, then run back to bed, vault in, and pretend to be sleeping when we went to check on him. He pulled that one several times. One time, he left Bear at the door to wait for us.

What finally pretty much settled him was to let Gracie hang out with him for a while.

Monday, June 14, 2004

2-year update

After two years of growing, here's the current stats for David:

Height - 34.5 inches
Weight - 28 pounds
Both these measurements are in the 50th percentile.
I didn't get his noggin size, but I'm told it's 80th percentile. Jane took him today while I went to work.

Over the weekend, we had a change to our original plans. Friends of ours were planning to come up from Connecticut to visit, but their younger daughter got sick Friday afternoon so they had to cancel. We spent the weekend doing fun things with our son, instead.

Saturday we walked into town, and let him play at the town common and such. He napped for a good long time that day - 4 hours. But he made up for it by trying to avoid going to sleep and waking up at 6 AM on Sunday. We confined him to quarters (AKA his crib) for awhile to let everyone sleep a little longer.

Then we went to the New England Aquarium for a grand adventure. Instead of driving all the way in, we drove to Wonderland and took the Blue Line in. This was very impressive to little David, who had never ridden a train (that he was aware of) before. He liked the fishies, but the train was really the highlight for him.

(talking to my parents later that evening, he kept saying "blue choo-choo" to them)

Highlight: His ATF Dora episode is the "choo choo" episode, featuring the quest of Azul the blue train to get a whistle. He made the connection between Blue Line and Blue choo-choo - and when we were waiting in Aquarium Station to catch the train back home, he saw a train come in heading in the opposite direction. As it left down the track into the tunnel, he realized it dodn't have a whistle, and said, "oh no!". We reassured him that the choo-choo did in fact have a whistle, and all would be OK. It reassured him.

Later on, after we got home and he napped, Jane went to the grocery store. David and I played in the dining room, chasing each other around the dining room table in circles. I went with him into the living room to rest afterwards, and he took off after a few minutes. Suddenly, while I was sitting on the sofa, I heard an ominous tinkle.

Heading out to find him, I look in the dining room - and there he is, standing on the table, happily clinking the chandelier.

I swear, let them out of sight for a nanosecond...

Big whoop

While pulling into the complex this morning, I found myself behind an unfamilar, though nondescript car. Noticing the size, odd "M" derived logo, and drawn-back curtains in the back, I reckoned that the car in fornt of me must be a Maybach. Sure enough, when I looked it up online after arriving in my office, it was. I can't say it was that big a deal, though. It's just always mildly interesting to see a car model, especially an exotic, for the first time.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Customer Service Props

We got a couple of bills today - one of them was from Lowe's - and I was surprised to see it, since we should have had a zero balance. It turned out that our payment last month arrived late, and they charged us a $25 late fee. Needless to say, I was kinda steamed.

Here's where it gets good, though. I called them (Monogram Bank runs their program), and, after navigating the phone tree I got a rep. Without having to make any fuss at all I was transferred right to a senior rep who took all of five seconds to waive the fee and reset our account back to a zero balance. She told me it was no problem, and simply mentioned that if we're aver close to the deadline we could always just drop off payment at the store, where it would post immediately. I was prepared to close my account - instead, they got a happy customer. I've bought a lot of home stuff at Lowe's since they came to this area, and it's nice to see a company actually make a customer happy for a change.

Props to them.

Customer Service Props

We got a couple of bills today - one of them was from Lowe's - and I was surprised to see it, since we should have had a zero balance. It turned out that our payment last month arrived late, and they charged us a $25 late fee. Needless to say, I was kinda steamed.

Here's where it gets good, though. I called them (Monogram Bank runs their program), and, after navigating the phone tree I got a rep. Without having to make any fuss at all I was transferred right to a senior rep who took all of five seconds to waive the fee and reset our account back to a zero balance. She told me it was no problem, and simply mentioned that if we're aver close to the deadline we could always just drop off payment at the store, where it would post immediately. I was prepared to close my account - instead, they got a happy customer. I've bought a lot of home stuff at Lowe's since they came to this area, and it's nice to see a company actually make a customer happy for a change.

Props to them.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Disturbing

I just read a Baltimore Sun article about plans to install a network of surveillance cameras all over downtown Baltimore. These cameras will be linked in real time to police headquarters, and relayed to cruisers and helicopters. The state's director of homeland security responded to concerns about privacy by saying "we're at war".

Let me correct you, Mr. Schrader. We are not at war. We are engaged in police actions (using our military) to try and defend ourselves against non-state actors (aka terrorists) who are seeking to ruin our open, free way of life. Thanks to our government and their hysterical response, they are succeeding.

We are engaged in one war. That's overseas. Unfortunately, since we bungled it so spectacularly, the same terrorists we are trying to thwart here are hitting us there.

Let me clarify. Wars are fought between states and nations. Granted, there is no real good historical precedence for the network that is Al Qaida, but they are definitely not a state of any sort. I didn't oppose our going into Afghanistan to try and destroy them. I was all for it. But I do most assuredly oppose turning our nation, the cradle of liberty and the world's shining example of the benefits of freedom, into an armed police state. And we're well on our way there.

Is it because our leaders are cynical millennialists who think freedom is overrated? Or is it because most Americans appear to be idiot sheep who will gladly trade in their precious rights for a false sense of security when they go to bed at night?

It must be one of those two, or maybe both. But either which way, this Administration must go and Americans need to wake up and see that, right now, the greatest threat to America lies within. Unlike how they do things elsewhere, we can fix this at the ballot box. Hopefully enough of us have a clue to do so.

Hindsight

Coming in today was probably silly. Virtually all my customers are out today, and all that's gone on is that Airborne came with my ACN portfolio (which is kind of nice, despite the cheesy vinyl ironed-on Apple logo), and the sign people just came by to add the words "Technology Services And Training" to my front door.

Other than that, I have to drop off a form at the leasing office on my way out - when I moved in, I filled out my company info for listing in their resource index, but they must have lost it. So I just made a new copy for them.

Rob has listed both our TV that Jane won and my PowerBook on eBay. They're listed under user rdn916 - both the items listed are mine. I don't do eBay myself, but Rob sells some of my stuff on occasion.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

After much debate

I'll be at work regular hours tomorrow.

A lot of folks are closing for Reagan's funeral, but I've got work to do. I have a quote to deliver, some ordering to do for a customer, and I have to help a friend with some break/fix stuff. Taking the day off would just get in the way.

I figure he won't really mind.

Tweet tweet

I golfed with Ric last night - started with a bogey (not bad - I just missed scoring with a 12-foot putt for par but I had a tap-in), then played horribly for a few holes before picking it up on the last three. Three weeks ago, I went 7-6-8 on the final three after lighting it up on the first 6 to wind up at 52. This time, I went bogey, birdie, bogey (5-2-5) to finish at 51. And overall I probably played worse in this round than I did in the other one. Which shows you how fickle golf can be. That's a 9-shot swing over two different rounds.

But I did get my second birdie of the season, which is most excellent. I'm going to try and go to the driving range in the next couple of days to try and work things out a little - I'm really having a lot of trouble hitting driver off the tee lately, and that leaves me in a bad position to recover. It may be related to all the weight training I've been doing, but I've developed a hook in the last couple of weeks. That has never been a problem for me before. When I'm hitting well, I hit my drives about 250 yards, with a little bit of fade to them (a fade is basically like a slice, but gentle and controlled). My hook has been almost dead pull left. If I can work that out, my game otherwise is showing some promise this year.

The incredibly slow golfers in front of us didn't get to me as badly as usual, but on the final hole they were just farting around on the green while a thunderstorm line was starting to approach and the wind was picking up in advance of it. We finally hit into them and told them to get a move on so people could finish before the storm (there were a couple of groups behind us, too). They dared give us lip, but a talk with the starter and their attitude was adjusted.

Anyhow, they were pretty sucky golfers, too. Nyah nyah.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Affairs of State

When Reagan has his funeral this Friday, it'll be the first state funeral since Lyndon Johnson in 1973. Because when Nixon died last decade, they didn't have a state funeral for him.

Rumor has it they just screwed Nixon into the ground.

Dress Code

Today's dress code at JH Turiel has been modified to permit shorts. Because it's expected to be over 90% today.

If you go into Boston from the North Shore, there are two really good ways to get there, depending on your destination. If you are heading for the Downtown Crossing area, North Station, or anywhere in the Back Bay, you are best off driving down to Wellington Circle and taking the Orange Line into town. The bonus with that comes because you can also go to Krispy Kreme if you want - one is right outside the station.

Way number 2 is by heading down to Wonderland and taking the Blue Line. If you're headed to the Quincy Market/North End area you're best off heading to Aquarium station. Last night, I had a BNUG meeting in Boston so that's how I went.

It's convenient to go to meetings in Boston - and the price for me is about the same as when we meet at our regular Mount Ida location in Newton. With tolls, I pay $5 to go to meetings in Newton ($3 inbound at the Williams Tunnel, $1 each way on the Mass. Pike at Allston). Taking the T, it's $2.50 to park, and $1.25 each way on the subway. Same price, less gas burned.

So hopefully we'll meet in Boston more often. That'd be nice.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Chirp chirp

Most days here, weather (and schedule) permitting, I like to go for a walk at lunchtime. There's a walkway around the ponds that are part of this complex, and when I factor in the stroll to get to it the walk comes out to a little over 2 miles. Nice mid-day exercise.

So anyhow, I was a little delayed in getting out there today because I had actual customer work to do, but I finally made it out around 2:15ish. It's gorgeous out there today, plain and simple.

I took a nice brisk walk around the ponds, and got to see all the goslings growing up fast (there's about 4 Canada Goose couples all raising goslings this season). I also got to spend the last few hundred meters of the walk dodging their little poop bombs that were left all over the walkway. Yuk.

In other news, I'm considering selling my old PowerBook and replacing it with a cheaper desktop Mac - Having two portables isn't really that convenient. It's a G4/667, with 768 MB of RAM and a 60 GB hard drive (and the Combo drive). Used Mac dealers are getting around $1600 for these with slower processors - if I can get $1500ish I'd be very pleased, and you'd get a really nice PowerBook. Let me know if you're interested.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Minor regrets

Last week I picked up a Linksys WRT54g to replace the SMC that I thought had died. It was me being dumb, so I took it back the next day, unopened.

Anyhow, last Wednesday when I bought it it was $99. This weekend, it went on sale everywhere for $50-$60, depending on where you get it. Had I waited until the weekend to buy it at that price, I would have hung on to it just in case I ever needed it.

Ultimately, I plan to start stocking a couple of items like that just to keep them on-hand in case I need them for a customer job. I figure I'll wind up carrying only a couple of hundred dollars' worth of inventory, though, in total.

Because I don't need the hassle of being a reseller.

By the way, the title of my post last Tuesday (The Mundanes) refers to the name of John Linnell's (They Might Be Giants) first band. When I was helping out a friend of mine who briefly experimented with running a small record label a few years back (I designed the band's CD), the drummer played in that band with Linnell.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Arms race

As my faithful readers know, David's been sleeping in the Big Boy Bed for two weeks now. It's gone pretty well. What we did to keep him confined to quarters was put one of the standard Safety 1st doorknob guards on the inside of his door. For those of you who have no kids, the Safety 1st guard is a 2-piece shell that snaps around the doorknob band then has little grips an adult can squeeze enough to catch the real knob and open it. In the hands of a weak-gripped 2-year-old, it should just spin and not let him open said door. It worked until yesterday.

Yesterday morning, Jane got up first and went to shower. I stayed in bed. I heard him get up and start rattling around the doorknob. Then something caught my eye - I looked out, and there was David, marching out into the hallway where he then pitched his bear over the railing.

Since I knew the gate was open, I bolted out of bed and caught him before he tried to head downstairs. On his dresser, neatly, were the two halves of the doorknob guard.

This called for some quick thinking. Last night, I tore a strip of duct tape into two long, thin pieces and did a wrap of them around the doorknob guard to secure the halves better. Just in case, though, we closed the gate before bed.

Good thing. This morning, Jane went in to get him Both pieces of duct tape had been neatly removed and placed on the dresser. The guard was still on, though - he hadn't gotten around to removing it yet.

So today, I've taken a roll of clear heavy-duty packing tape and wrapped it several times around the guard. I can barely open the thing myself, and it's survived one nap.

Of course, now I figure my little Houdini'll find a way to smuggle a knife into his room tonight. But I expect it to keep him stymied for quite a while.

Unrelated note: I was rooting for Smarty Jones yesterday. I don't really care about racing overall, but there's something about the big "name" races and the whole Triple Crown mystique. Maybe it's because it's become such a rare event. But the pageantry of the whole spectacle still captures my interest every year.

By the way

The preceding post was inspired by this weekend's weird bit of synchronicity: the 60th anniversary of D-Day, and the passing of Ronald Reagan.

In many ways, both were heavy formative experiences for me - Reagan was the first President of my adult years (I still remember Carter, but I was way too young to have more than fuzzy impressions of him), and World War II was the Last Good War in many ways - and I learned much about it in school back in the 1970s and '80s.

Both were significant, and both helped form me and the opinions I hold today. For what it's worth.

Why I am Not a Conservative

Well, in a number of ways, I do consider myself one. But with a small "c". What do I mean? Well, I generally believe that government is best suited to be small. I think taxes should be as low as is realistically possible. I think there are times that we need to swing a military big stick, and I think government should stay out of the lives of it's citizens. I also believe that stable two-parent families are the best way to raise children, public institutions (like schools) should be accountable to their users, and I am a firm believer that most economic issues are best solved by the market.

Once upon a time, the Republican Party mainly thought like that. But about when I was born, the party started changing. The Northeast moderates began to be replaced by Western and Southern social conservatives. Fueled by religious belief and a devotion to supply-side economics, they first took control of the party, then went on to capture the country. Old-line moderates (like the senior Bush) remade themselves in the new image, and a new focus took shape. The new conservative believed in thinning the wall between church and state, believed in tax-cutting at the expense of everything else (except for spending), and had a throwback attitude on race and gender. They feel that taking the minimum in taxes from the wealthy is essential to all that is good in the world. But naked giveaways to industry and a total contempt for the environment, driven by a millenarian viewpoint that holds with the Biblical belief that nature is man's dominion, has left this nation in a precarious state.

There are a lot of issues where I almost agree with that viewpoint. For instance, I believe abortion is wrong. But my belief isn't driven by religion - I'm about as firm an atheist as you will ever see. I just see children as such a valuable thing that it's awful to waste the infinite potential that each one represents. You know what, though? I'll express that by not having an abortion myself. I believe anyone else should make that decision for themselves, even if it's a bad one. And I won't think worse of someone for having one - because I'm not in their shoes and can't be. So in essence, that's about a conservative position as one can have.

Why do I favor gay marriage? Same thing. It's a conservative position. I think pair bonds are something society should encourage, and with that I also figure that I'd rather see gay couples married than single. Though you wouldn't know it sometimes from the straight world, married couples are more monogamous, care for one another, and serve as a safety net for society. Married couples are good for the stability of neighborhoods, and provide the best environment to raise children. I may agree that the ideal family has a mom and a dad, but better two dads or two moms than just one of either.

I don't believe in deficits. I don't believe in unprovoked wars. I believe we need to be responsible in our stewardship of the environment. I don't believe we should be tearing apart more of Alaska to try and gain a little more oil. I don't believe government should subsidize loggers, farmers, or drillers. I think artificially low-priced land leases are irresponsible. I think we shouldn't subsidize any industry at all, in fact. I don't really believe in most foreign aid, though I think there's a place for it occasionally for a short term. I wouldn't have opposed the Marshall Plan. I believe laws regulating the sexual behavior of humans are wrong, though I personally find many of those things to be yucky. I don't consume drugs, but I think our drug laws are a mistake. I rarely gamble, but I think it's foolishness to try and ban it. I believe that, so long as nobody is harmed and all parties are consenting, that virtually any behavior should be legal inside one's home. I think we should all be free to make bad decisions - though I also believe that we should be responsible enough not to.

In general, I would rather have well-intentioned interference in my life and my business' operations than the alternative - religion-driven moralism, cynical realpolitik in our dealings with the rest of the world, and an ideology that makes no place for the community except when it's connected to the church. Conservatism is far different from the Right, and if the current GOP defines what it means to be a conservative, then I'd rather be thought of as a liberal. Even though I come to similar positions, I do it from the other direction. To me, it's important to not force my views on others - and modern-day conservatives seem to have no problems doing so.

So I'll let you folks figure it out. I'm open to new labels - Once upon a time we were "Rockefeller Republicans". We also used to be the "Eastern Establishment". Then something happened, and we vanished. Nowadays I vote more for Democrats, even though I have to hold my nose when I do it. I know there's more people like me out there - atheists, religious people who believe in the proverbial "God with a small 'g'", social liberals, middle-class people who wonder why rich people get all the tax breaks, pragmatic libertarians, humanists, and everyone who's ever been willing to look at an issue with an opened mind. Our current President truly has a mind like a steel trap - once it shuts on something it never, ever opens again. He needs to be retired. The Right wing needs to be cut off. The born-agains need to go back to church and stay out of government. And we need to learn once again to just simply let people be.

Rant over for now.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Scattered Thoughts

I had a 9:30 meeting with a client that's been put off until Monday (same time). Since that leaves me with nothing on my plate until noon (I have a break-fix coming in), I figured I'd give y'all a collection of things I'm currently thinking:

- Wrestling news: WWE's only "national" competition is NWA-TNA wrestling, run by the Jarretts down in Nashville. Their show is a weekly $10 pay-per-view every Wednesday night. Well, they cut a deal with Fox Sports Net for a cable slot to do a new, 1-hour show called "TNA Impact!", and it debuts this afternoon at 3PM on most regional FSN stations. I'll TiVo the debut, but I'm not that encouraged by a few details. First off, it's only an hour. Secondly, for some reason they decided to tinker with the classic ring - it's a 6-sided beast they're using. Thirdly, they tape at Universal down in Orlando, and not only is the crowd restricted to under 600 (eliminating most of the crowd noise you get at a WWE event), but they actually have to explain to who the heels and faces are. Not promising. But I'll try it, because Vince needs competition.

- David's been doing the Big Boy Bed for almost two weeks, and except for the one morning where we put him in his crib at 6 AM or so, he's been there ever since. He doesn't fight going to bed at all, because he knows he can get out if he wants to (unlike the crib).

- In a related note, the other afternoon he went down for a nap and Jane heard him rattling on the door a little while later. He stopped, and she then told me what had happened on the phone. I suggested she go look in on him to see if he'd gone back to bed - he hadn't. He was passed out on the floor wrapped around his teddy bear. She put them back to bed and he woke up just enough to say "night night". I love my kid.

- One other wrestling note before turning to real sports: I was a skeptic when they recently introduced Eugene, Eric Bischoff's "special" nephew whose dream was to wrestle (Eugene is actually Nick Dinsmore, a very talented fellow who has been working in WWE's minor league promotion for years). I was convinced that they'd do something horrid and tasteless with the idea of a mentally handicapped wrestler. But so far, they've been tasteful and downright inspirational (words you do not normally associate with WWE, except with the qualifier "not"). Eugene has gotten over in a huge way, William Regal has been wonderful as his "manager", and they've been using their biggest stars to help give Eugene the rub. The Rock even showed up in San Diego a week ago to help out. This is WWE, so there's always time to mess it up, but so far Eugene's story has made Raw more watchable than it's been in ages.

- I've created a flyer for the new tenant package that Cummings gives out to the new arrivals here at the Cummings Center. We get about 15 or so new firms per month. That's pretty good, given the massive size of the complex.

- I solved the AD problem with my Mac. Turned out to be a conflict between Rendezvous and a Microsoft convention that deviates from standards somewhat. When setting up a AD forest, they suggest the ".local" tld be used. But that conflicts with Rendezvous, which uses the .local TLD for devices discovered by zeroconf (which is an IETF standard). The fix is creating a shell script that modifies the MacOS X resolver to allow .local to be valid for non-Rendezvous uses. Only 4 lines, in fact. You also have to create a computer account for the Mac as well ahead of time, but it all works good. I can now browse and use devices in the Active Directory, like shares and printers. This is a useful skill, since Mac/PC integration is one of my target markets.

- That old PowerBook battery I wrote about a while back is still holding up OK, though 2.5 hours is about the best-case scenario I can get with it, followed by the voltage plunge. I'm going to stick it out, though, because my ultimate goal is to do well enough here that I can afford to take advantage of the great ACN discounts and the extra coupons I've been sent to get myself a PowerBook 15" down the road. Maybe this fall, if I've thrived by then. Maybe later (or maybe not at all!). If and when I have a need to outfit my training room with a few Macs, I will definitely save good money that way.

- We still are hoping to find out what's up with the Rockmore this year. To have to get through a season without it would be a Bad Thing.

- After a week or so of feeling like I'd plateaued, my workouts have suddenly started to get easier again. I may boot the weight on the stack one more time if I still feel that way in another week or so. In two months, I've lost about 5 or so pounds, dropped a pants size, and added about 3/4 of an inch to my chest and arms. I don't want to add much more in the size area, but if you're going to weigh over 220, better it be muscle than fat.

- I'm going to re-institute a Holyoke tradition that's been squished by the new regime - summer hours. On Fridays if I'm not busy I shall begin leaving at lunchtime. Of course, since I forward my office calls to my cell whenever I'm not here and have both webmail and a VPN back in I'm never actually off from work, but it's nice to be able to go home early sometimes. Especially in the nice weather (like today!).

- I heard a rumor that both the NBA and NHL are down to their final two teams. Can someone confirm this for me? I'm more interested in who got cut in the NFL on June 1st and how Nomar did in his latest rehab start than I am in either of those two sports. Heck, I may even be more interested in pro soccer. Which is not very much.

- In a related note, I am not panicing yet. Nomar should be back next week if all goes OK, and should immediately give the Sox a lift. Hopefully, Trot comes back soon thereafter and helps stabilize the outfield - we need to see Millar back at first regularly, Ortiz as full-time DH, and both Kapler and Daubach (though I like them), back as an extra outfielders. Pedro's track record indicates he'll probably fix his breaking stuff pretty quickly, and his velocity is starting to come back now so that helps, too. Arroyo is OK as a 4/5 starter, and I could care less what happens to Kim, except for his impact on the payroll ($5 million????). Lowe is my only worry, but I'm pretty happy right now that he didn't take the Sox offer (supposedly 3 years, $9 million per) during the offseason. Use that money to sign Varitek first, Garciaparra second, and then Pedro third if need be. Lowe could make decent trade bait to a National League team perhaps at the deadline - he's got a good track record and really just needs to get his head on straight. A change of scenery could help that out, and maybe we can fill another hole for him. I'm happy with the first three slots in the rotation, so whether Lowe or some other guy is the 4 starter doesn't matter that much.

- And yes, the Yankees are on a tear. But they're old, and they're relying on a bunch of guys with injury histories. That rotation could fall apart at any moment, and history indicates at least one of them is headed to the DL soon. Plus, A-Rod's teams never win, and always do better after he leaves (see Seattle and Texas for proof).

Thursday, June 03, 2004

This just in...

In recent news, Paul McCartney has stated that, yes, several of the Beatles' songs were about drugs, after all.

I know you're all just as shocked as I am to hear that...

So "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" really was about LSD???? Oh my.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Stupid is as stupid does

So yesterday, I came into the office and discovered that I couldn't print. My print server was connected and showing a connect light, but couldn't get an IP address. So I assumed the print server was kaput, and hooked the printer directly to the server. No biggie, right?

Today, I turned on my PowerBook and also got no IP address. Hmm. I did have a wireless connection to the base station, so I guessed flakiness on the base station's part - it's an SMC that's been odd since I bought it back in the winter. After a few cursory attempts to fix it, I headed over to the local Radio Shack to pick up a Linksys WRT54g instead.

Then, when I got back (before opening the box), I had a "light dawns over Marblehead" moment. Checking my Windows server, I discovered that the DHCP service was shut off. Duh. So I enabled it, and everything is now hunky-dory. But that was my dumb moment for the month.

Now I just need to figure out how to rename my SBS-based domain. When I installed SBS, I used the ".local" domain for my forest, and that conflicts with Rendezvous on my Mac. So I can't properly use resources through AD from the Mac. I have some tools from Microsoft that should do the trick, but I need to grok them first.

Bye bye

Our kittycat has left us for greener pastures.

No, not that kind. Thankfully. What happened is that she has always slept with us, but she adores David so much that we figured she'd abandon us for him as soon as we left his door open at night.

Well, last night David woke up at 5:30-ish, and he wanted a bottle. Jane accommodated him, and we changed his diaper and brought him into our bed for a few minutes. Finally, she went to bring him to his own bed, but Gracie had gone in there while she was taking him over. She put him down, and tried to pick up Gracie but David wouldn't allow it. As I type this, she's sleeping happily on his feet.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

The Mundanes

"Mundane" is actually more of a description of today, but I'll give a bonus point to anyone who can give me the real story behind this post's title.

Anyhow, it is a mundane day thus far. It's gray and gloomy outside, and I'm paying bills at the moment. My back is kinda sore - and has been for the last day. It's either from sleeping badly on Sunday or my body's way of telling me I'm overdoing it on the weights. I suspect the former, but I've dialed back my workouts a little for a few days just in case.

I've developed something resembling a philosophy when it comes to doing business. My first priority with a prospective customer isn't to try and understand their technical environment. That part's easy. What I want to do first is understand their business. If I get that right, I'm in pretty good shape for the rest, I figure. And whatever technical solutions I come up with are more likely to be relevant.

We did barbecue last night over at Greg & Mary's place along with another family - David played with their two kids and we all ate way too much. In other culinary news, the Rockmore was supposed to have been towed out on station for this weekend, but when we walked into town Sunday we didn't see it out in the harbor. A sign in the company's window, however, says that though their on-shore restaurant is closed (and being rebuilt as something else) the Rockmore itself would be open as usual starting Memorial Day weekend. So we're wondering what's up with that. Maybe they meant Memorial Day 2005?

David has gotten a little whiny during walks lately. I think he figures that now he's proved he can walk all he wants, so he'd just as soon be carried. What he does is scoot in front of me and grab my leg - as soon as he gets my attention he'll say "up?". I'm supposed to then pick him up and carry him one-armed. Sometimes I oblige him.

We also took the changing table out of his room yesterday. He needed the space, plus we were risking harm by trying to use it any more. Mainly he gets changed standing up now. After the current crop of diapers is used up I think we'll switch to the convertibles. It'll make things easier.

Finally, over the weekend Jane and I cleared out the side yard (really just a strip about 6 feet wide between our house and the fence - we cut down a mainly dead rose bush, got rid of a few maple saplings, and cut back all the vines growing on that side. We also raked out a lot of the debris that was there. We may try growing grass, but I think wood chips are a better option for play area. We also cleaned out the basement somewhat and made a better playspace down there than we had before.

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