Monday, August 30, 2004

Grr.

I was on a support call with Symantec just now, when my line 2 rang. I asked if I could put them on hold, which was OK by the engineer except he said that I'd get a callback from the level 2 in about a half-hour, regardless. So I disconnected and grabbed line 2:

It was the fax.com asshats, with a fax tone ringing in my ear. Again. Though it was the first incident in at least a few days (they just rang me again as I'm typing this)
I will still commit an act of violence if I ever encounter a known employee of the company in person.

The pattern is that they call my line 2, and then once I answer and slam the phone down there will be a callback within 10 minutes. After which I may not get a call sequence from them for a few days.

But they always come back. Bastards.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Idle thoughts from the support queue

While I'm on hold (seemingly forever) with Symantec, I had a few thoughts drift through my head. So it's time for yet another random blog entry!

- As of today, you just can't complain about the Nomar trade anymore. Not only is his injury problem starting to rear it's ugly head in Chicago, but Mientkiewicz has been a rock defensively, and Cabrera's given us a defensive upgrade along with some newfound sock in his bat. They've gotten hot at the right time, and the Yankees are starting to finally feel some pressure. Since the trade, we've picked up 4 games on them (5 1/2 is the distance today).

- I read the penultimate Dark Tower novel this week (Song of Susannah), Not bad, but you can tell that King is trying to figure out how to wrap it up as neatly as possible in the next (and final) book. I also just read David Halberstam's The Teammates, about the relationship between Sox greats Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio. Short, but satisfying.

- The Symantec issue concerns VPN support on their Gateway Security appliance. Their IPSec support is apparently fine, but whenever I try and use the MS PPTP client to connect thru a tunnel to the Windows 2003 Server at my customer's site, the firewall decides it's being attacked and kills the session. It's a known bug that I'm told is addressed by a hotfix - but getting it has been an adventure.

- SP2 is out, and may well be the be-all, but I am not yet recommending it to my customers. I've had no difficulties with it so far, though, on three different test-bed systems.

- Earlier this week I added Novell to the list of companies I partner with. That gives me an "official" Linux channel to add to my Microsoft and Apple partnerships.

- The cold is receding fast, thankfully. Unfortunately, I had to blow off a time that was being held for one of my former employees who is being pushed out herself at month's end. I feel pretty bad about that, but the rest last night was sorely needed. My head still is a little stuffy, but not too bad at this point.

- I built a server for my friend in Connecticut this morning (converting an old IBM Aptiva). I'm going to send it down next week.

- Though I'm not a chat-o-holic, I do now stay online when I'm in the office - IM can be a handy way to answer a customer question without taking me too much out of the flow of whatever else I'm doing at the time. I can be reached at josht (at) mac.com, and that's for users of AIM and iChat. I can do video as well.

- Recently started learning MacOS X Server. Good stuff.

- If you're trying to run a Mac on Active Directory, look for Apple's tech article (ID=107800) on the topic. Basically, there's a conflict between Server 2003's default suffix of .local and Apple's use of the same for Rendezvous. The workaround is a simple hack to the MacOS resolver's search order. Once done, it plays nicely.

Yesterday, Our cat Danny actually let David pet him. The problem is that I think David's now convinced that they are friends, which couldn't be farther from the truth.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

A game less traveled

Today's round of golf was "interesting". I was playing with my cold (which isn't as bad as usual, thankfully - it's already starting to break up after 2 days), and had that "disconnected" feeling some people get when they're sick - you feel like your body is about a half-second or so behind what your brain is telling it to do, and everything takes extra effort.

I played one step from horrible for the first six holes - even lost two consecutive shots on the long 4th hole. A couple of my shots were pretty good (monster drives on 3 and 6), but overall I was erratic and had no touch at all, and once I made the greens I had no feel for speed or line. It was ugly.

Then, on 7, something happened miraculously, and I hit a decent tee shot, followed by an OK wedge to near the green and a nice chip to about 5 feet. And I made the putt for par.

On 8, I hit a near-perfect 7-iron onto the green - dead on line with the pin but about 10 feet short. The birdie putt was just short and I had a tap-in for another par.

This was weird. My drive on 9 was crushed, but seemed to be fading just a little right. I went to look for it in the right rough, thinking that the ball I saw in the fairway was Ric's tee shot, even though it seemed a little long for him.

When I got up far enough, though, I saw it was mine. Ric's was also on the fairway, but behind me and to the left. I must have gotten a really nice bounce off that rough area. Anyhow, an easy chip and two putts later, and I closed out the round (and the golf league season) with a 52 - right about where I've been all year. But with 3 pars in a row. Hopefully that bodes well for Friday's tournament. And hopefully I'll be breathing normally by then. Signs are promising.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Bleh.

Yesterday afternoon I was having intermittent problems with a runny nose - today the spigot is on. Hopefully there's not more to it, because I have too much stuff going on this week to deal with a cold. I did do my regular bike ride this morning, so at least I'm not being a slug.

In trying to set up the firewall for my client downstairs, I found another Symantec bug. PPTP tunnels do not currently work through the firewall, even if you just map the ports directly to the host. The current workaround is to use IPSec, but they have a hotfix that they plan to send me tomorrow. That should let me finally pretty much finish the project, and not a moment too soon. Next week is starting out insane.

New reason to have both cable and TiVo: Rescue Me, on f/x, is one of the best TV shows I have ever seen. Period. And that's just after watching the first two episodes. Denis Leary has a knack for making good TV, and he really gets it right here.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Johnny Paycheck

Today, I paid myself.

Finally!

And it was a pretty good paycheck, too. Not enough to make up for the first five months of not paying myself, but a pretty good start if I can keep it up.

Yesterday, as part of my Quest for Fitness (and I'm training for September's Boston/Provincetown AIDS ride, see the Harbor to the Bay website for more info, and to sponsor me), I did the long Cape Ann loop on the bike. Robert and I wound up doing 43 miles by the time it was over. My legs are still feeling it today.

But it was a good sign - I made the ride at an average pace of around 12 MPH, and that included some hilly sections far more severe than what you get on Cape Cod. I'm doing the shorter, 68 mile portion of the ride (Bourne to P-Town), so I think I'll be able to manage the additional 25 miles OK that day. My training so far is to do between 12-20 miles twice per week, and one longer ride on the weekend. I'll go shorter this weekend, probably (we have a wedding on Saturday that'll mess up the schedule), but I want to go 50+ at least once before the event.

As for the overall effect on my health, I've tapered off on the weight training until after the ride - I'm still doing a few lighter sets during the week to maintain tone, but the less weight I carry the better off I'll be. I weighed myself a couple of weeks ago, and all the weightlifting has kept my total weight from dropping as much as I'd like. Given the changes in my pants size, I know there's been a bigger shift than the scale shows - but I've added muscle as fast as I've lost fat. And muscle weighs more.

To get ready for this, I've rehabbed my old Fuji mountain bike and turned it into a bit more of a street-worthy machine. But it's still a lot more difficult to ride long distances than it would be on a road bike. I have Robert's old road bike, but there's not much on it I can use other than the frame, crankarms, and deraileurs, so I'm holding off on rehabbing it until I've earned more cash. As it was, it cost me about $150 in parts (and tires) to get my Fuji in shape - I can see spending twice that on the road bike, because it needs wheels, too. I'll probably tackle it for next season.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Sharing spam

Here's one from my home Inbox:

"Fix your son's debts"

My son is not quite 27 months old.

You can't see me

Apologies to John Cena...

Last night I had an unpleasant encounter with something that happens to me once or twice a year - I've never figured out why.

It was about 11, and I'd been catching up on the current season of Monk (which ends tonight, by the way). Suddenly, I noticed an itch in the corner of my left eye, which I rubbed.

Well, what happens sometimes is that it's not an itch - something I'm allergic to on contact drifts in and lands on the eyeball, and within a short time the eye itself gets all swollen up and uncomfortable. Looking at it in the mirror you can actually see the surface all distended, discolored, and watery. Yecch. It doesn't hurt, but it does make my eyelid kinda scratchy while it lasts, and that's uncomfortable.

So I hustled upstairs as soon as I realized what was going on, and immediately took two Benadryls - the antihistamine makes it fade away pretty quickly. By morning, the eye was normal again. Close call. If I wait too long to take antihistamines, it'll stay puffed up for a day or more.

One the one hand, it'd be nice to know exactly what contact agent causes that to happen, but on the other hand it's so rare I don't care much. I'm sure it's not cat-related, otherwise it'd be happening regularly.

Speaking of cats, Gracie earned all sorts of bonus points yesterday. David woke up mid-nap with a load in his diaper, and was out of sorts all the rest of the day. When I came home, he was sobbing on the sofa downstairs and neither Jane or I could stop him. Gracie hopped up onto his lap, and he quieted down immediately, put one hand on her, and stuck his other thumb in his mouth.

Then last night around midnight he woke up briefly, upset. I went in to check on him, and he was sitting up all startled on the bed. I settled him down, then Gracie came in and curled up with him - which made him fall back asleep immediately. I waited about ten minutes before removing her and letting him sleep.

She's a darn good cat.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Golf Addendum

After submitting my score to League Commissioner Doug, it turns out that I bested that 46 once, a couple of seasons ago. I shot a 45 that time.

So yesterday was my #2 all-time round at the Salem muni. I've had a few 47s before, too. But I remembered those.

Spam - it's not just for breakfast anymore

Somewhere, an interesting switch has been thrown in my name. A lot of the spam I get (over 100 per day in total) is now in Spanish - probably as much as 20% of the total.

Besides that, The people at Comcast think I'm Hispanic as well - I keep getting mailed offers for the Spanish tier of channels. But I suspect that's more a function of my location. Our house is on the fringe of a big Latino neighborhood (or as our friend Robert calls it, a "rainbow of diversity") called the Point. When we first bought the house, it really was on the fringe, but the neighborhood has gentrified and retreated several blocks from us back in the direction of downtown. I figure the Comcast maps say we're probably Spanish-speaking and they market accordingly.

Dummies.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A round of golf, analyzed (again)

Today was pretty good. I played with Ric and a couple of chainsmokers (one guy and one girl), who were so lazy they used a cart and so irresponsible they kept dropping lit butts. But the round went splendidly, in nice, breezy conditions.

Hole 1: I open with a blast off the tee - about 220 yards. That's good for me lately, I've been having some problems getting my drives off well. But it tailed some at the end, and I have a poor lie on the right edge of the rough, with no clear shot at the green. So i punch it out onto the fairway, and leave my wedge short of the green. Uh-oh. The chip from heavy rough is to the edge of the green with a sand wedge, but then I get a good break - my first putt goes 25+ feet right to the cup edge for a tap-in double bogey 6.

Hole 2: The brutal 246-yard par 3. But not today. I hit my drive to about 5 yards off the green, chip on, and an easy 2-putt later, I have a bogey 4 - always a good result here (if you've seen this hole, you know why).

Hole 3: This is where I got the idea that things were breaking my way. My tee shot was a little scuffed, but I still got 150-odd yards out of it and a favorable lie in the right rough. I followed up with the Tight Lies, and dropped it just right of the green. Short chip and another two-putt, and I have my second bogey in a row. After 3 holes, I've shot 15.

Hole 4: The big par 5. And I shorten it with a bomb off the tee - probably about 280 yards. Right down the left edge, with just a smidge of fade that leaves me on a great lie in mid-fairway. I follow up with a shot using the good old Tight Lies, and my golfing companions think it's gone way right. I had a good bead on my target, though, and it worked out just like I planned - left in the middle of the fairway about 30 yards out from the hole. I make a minor mistake, though, and push the wedge to the right. But I still get up and down with a chip and a two-putt - my third bogey in a row!

Hole 5: A little uglier. Great tee shot again - about 230 yards. My next shot, though, is a little too high and pushed a little too far right, and my chip from there gets no traction and rolls through the green. I wind up with a double-bogey 6.

Hole 6: More like it. Great tee shot cutting the corner and leaving me about 180 yards to the green (the hole is 400 yards as the crow flies, but plays longer because of the dogleg left). I hit the follow-up a little too high up and only roll it about 100 of those yards, but then I stick my wedge right on the green, about pin-high and 10 feet away left. Two putts later, and I'm back in the world of bogeys with a 5.

Hole 7: Luck. Pure luck. My tee shot is way right, and I hit a provisional that's just as bad. But I find the ball, and trying to hit a safe shot out I wind up knocking a worm-burning 4-iron right to greenside. And wind up with another bogey.

Hole 8: OK, here I just sucked. I hit a bad 7-iron of fthe tee that only went about 110 yards. And the hole is 130. The wedge is just short, too. Then I putt from the fringe and it looks good, but breaks badly and downhill. I recovered by 2-putting in, but I have another double bogey for a 5.

Hole 9: Now, we're talking. My drive is a 275-yard bomb right down the middle. I stick the wedge on the green about 15 feet left of the pin, and leave the birdie putt just a few inches away. Easy finishing par, and a final score of 46 - my best round ever at Olde Salem Greens. With my 47 2 weeks ago, it's a nice little run I have going on right now.

If I only knew how I was doing it, I might get even better...

Coolness

According to reports in The Register, the folks at Freescale (the former Motorola Semiconductor) are working on at least two new G4-class chips. They'll be announcing them at October's MPF in San Jose.

Why is this cool, you ask, when Apple is already making big noises about the G5 transition? Well, for starters, the current 7447A processor (the G4 that's used in Apple's current PowerBooks) is due for a boost. Using that is an easy decision for Apple in the short-term, because the current chip tops out at 1.5 GHz. It's a good chip, with a big L2 cache and excellent power consumption properties, but 1.5 GHz is a tad pokey now. If they can get it close to 2 GHz with a comparable power budget then I think it's a safe bet Apple will build it into PowerBooks - at least until sometime next year.

The other bit of news is even cooler, though. There is also going to be a dual-core version of the G4 released. If it's got the right power tendencies, then you could see PowerBooks that are effectively dual processor machines. Note to Paul Woike (my former employee who has been begging for a dually laptop for years): if this happens you'll get your dually, but you might have to buy a Mac to do so.

If the chip burns too much juice for Apple, you'll probably just see it in the embedded market. PowerPC chips are real popular in the network infrastructure world - they use less power than Intel chips and give good performance for the dollar.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Notes

I'm gonna miss Phish. I've got several of their albums, and I never saw them live - the scene was too hippy for me. But I can download high-quality copies of their live performances at LivePhish, and the profits go to charity. Cool.

Jim McGreevey is a putz. Not for coming out - I applaud him for that. But for putting his boyfriend into a $110k per year job to shut him up? Unforgivable. That said, I like his maneuver to make sure the governorship stays in his party's hands (just from a perspective of admiring sneaky hardball political tricks), but look for him to amscray by mid-September.

I set up the VPN for my customer today, and enabled OWA for them. I think I've secured their website sufficiently, by judicious use of IP deny lists.

I can set up a WiFi hotspot in any place of business for under $500 (including my fees), and with an ongoing cost of under $100 per month. Easy (I met with a customer this morning who I'll be doing that for), and free for customers. With those economics, why should anyone try to sell hotspot access for money? Internet access in public places is becoming almost like oxygen - essential to life and omnipresent.

I solved a major area of frustration here at the office this weekend. When I opened up, to save some money, I recycled a cordless phone I had in the house. But it only handled one line, so when I got a call on line 2 I'd have to dash to my desk from wherever else I'd be and pick up. Well, I had a couple of Staples savings certificates (a $15 rewards check and a $20 coupon), so I picked up a 2-line cordless phone cheap.

David was in a real good mood when I left this morning. He even accepted that I was going to work without a temper fit. I hope it persists...

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Standing down

As I mentioned in the prior post, I had way too busy a schedule for the last 9+ days. So I was happy to find out this morning that Charley had run out of steam before raining on us overnight - and there were no leaks and no damage to repair. So the major project du jour was a thorough cleaning of the house. I washed all the bedding (including the mattress pads and comforter), vacuumed the house, and swiffered all the areas under furniture and radiators. Jane mopped the downstairs and the upstairs hallways. It was simple, but sweaty work, and about all I was up to today. Fortunately, David was a little more cooperative today overall, though he was a handful again at naptime.

Things should be great again by this time next year. He's beginning to Get It when you try to rationalize something to him, and that's the biggest step in creating a human being from a toddler.

Tomorrow is a medium-busy day. I have a sales appointment at 9:30, and then I will be doing work back in the office the rest of the day. If all goes well, I may take a mental health day later in the week. Despite the exercise I've been getting and my improved overall health, I feel pretty cruddy right now, and it's all because of how hard I've been driving myself. A good day with my mind turned off should help.

I also need to tune up my golf game some - my driving's been erratic as heck and I haven't even played anywhere but the local muni yet this season. Not even a trip to the range so far.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Exhaustion

Here was my week:

- Saturday, Sunday: installation of new network in customer site.
- Monday: Early morning bike ride, deal with miscellaneous issues all day after install (nothing major).
- Tuesday: More support, golf in the afternoon.
- Wednesday: Met with a customer in the morning, then drove to Connecticut.
- Thursday: Spent the day working on the network of a friend's company. Then we drove home after dinner - arriving home around 11.
- Friday: Saw two customers before noon. Then went up to NH for a bachelor party - and for that we drove down to the Pats' preseason opener. Made it home at around 2AM.
- Today: Blew off early morning bike ride (duh!). We went to Rockport for a while, and pretty much battled David all day. For a break before dinner, I went to a friend's house to help move two sofas.

I've gotten very little sleep this week, our toddler's been rather "strong-willed", and I've spent way too much time behind the wheel of a car. The good side of it all is that I billed a good amount, and before I left for the bachelor party my toddler said "I love you Daddy" to me. So life is good. But I'll be sleeping in tomorrow.

Then, of course, I have to check and make sure any possible roof leaks are dealt with before the hurricane's remnants arrive...

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

My message to the RNC

I read magazines all over the political spectrum (see my FAQ), so I get junk mail from all over, as well. Most of it tends to be conservative in nature.

So yesterday, I got a lengthy "questionnaire" from the Republican National Committee (with Dennis Hastert's name on the front), that also contained a pitch for money.

Fortunately, it also included a business reply envelope.

So I made sure it was ripped up nicely to fit the envelope (aren't I courteous), and added a little note above my name and address (I made sure it remained unscathed). I told them to "F*** off".

Hey, if it made Dick Cheney feel good, I figured it would make me feel good, too. And it did.

Monday, August 09, 2004

For those of you who dump on wrestling

I suggest you read this article about about Kurt Angle. Kurt is the real-life freestyle gold medalist from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Nowadays he works in the squared circle for WWE, as one of the best in that business, too. The article really puts into perspective the physical damage these guys do to themselves in exchange for all the money and fame.

Sobering stuff. As much as I'm a huge fan of Angle's, reading it makes me wish he'd hang it up this week.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Happy Anniversary!

One year ago today, I became one of the first shoes to drop at my old company, when I returned from "morning break" and walked straight into a layoff. A year later, a lot of other people are gone, and at the end of this month a former support team of four (myself included) will be reduced to two.

Which is OK, because there's about half as many employees to support now. Though their technical environment has only become more complex. There's also no more programming department, fewer people in all other areas, and in a fairly cynical move some of the people dumped have, in fact, been replaced by new hires who are younger and cheaper. But most have just been cast off.

I do hope what's left of the business succeeds, but preferably the process will derail the career of the ferretish-looking fellow who was the architect of the plan. Needless to say, I favored trying to repair the existing business for what it was worth. And I'm still a lot more bugged about all the other folks who lost their jobs than I am about myself. I expected my own job to go away, mainly for other political reasons having to do with the overall consolidation of the enterprise's IT groups. Within the org chart, I was an unneeded layer of management (technical skills don't appear in an org chart).

But as for those technical skills, they've served me well for years, and they're serving me well now. I think this company of mine is really turning the corner now. Between business I've signed and business I've got committed, I'm pretty solidly booked well into September, and there's more coming, it seems. I'll do it alone as long as I can (I have months of not earning money to make up for), but if the business flow seems to be consistent by the end of the year, I'll start seriously considering taking on help. I hope to have that decision to make.

So my life's looking up, despite the little blast I delivered above (I hope you read this someday, Ferret-man). I hope my ex-coworkers are getting their next acts together as well. And to the ones still riding it out: Keep the faith, y'all - it gets better. Holla holla.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Hi!

Just poking my head up from under the waves for a couple of minutes... It's been easily the busiest week I've had to date, and next week should be the same. Plus I have a weekend-long install to do as well.

That's the good part of working for yourself - you can take on as much as you can possibly handle. The bad part is that you feel obligated to do so. I have yet to turn down work, but I am not yet booking enough to hire help. So if that means a 60+ hour week, so be it.

Besides, I promised David a bicycle shirt like mine, so I have to earn enough to buy him one.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Endings and beginnings...

July ended well, with my third profitable month in a row. August is looking pretty good so far - I've already got some revenue in.

Now I'm worrying about actually doing the work, and then filling up the pipeline for September.

By the way, adding support for an unsupported model of NIC to Ghost isn't as hard as I thought. I was able to download the Dell driver image, and then all I had to do was create a new adapter template, point it to the unpacked DOS NDIS driver, and find the driver ID in the PROTOCOL.INI file that was supplied with the driver - then put it into the Ghost template.

A few minutes later, I was cloning laptops galore.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Greetings

This weekend was a weekend for meeting people. First, we went to Connecticut to meet our new nephew - my sister's baby Jack, who was born last week. He was adorable, and I hope we eventually get to see him awake. Rumor has it he does wake up on occasion.

Then, Sunday, we went to a party my uncle had for his oldest son - who just was remarried a couple of weeks ago to a woman he met from Russia. This was the first time we had met her - she seems like a very nice girl, if a little shy (mainly due to language issues, I suspect). Then, on the way home, we stopped at the Wiehls' house in Orange and stayed for a semi-impromptu picnic party they had and we got to see friends of theirs we hadn't seen in a long time. That was nice, too. David played both solo and with the other kids, and got to experience a trampoline for the first time. That was cool.

The drive home from there (once we finally left around 8-ish) was an ordeal. We hit heavy traffic well before the Sturbridge interchange, and I detoured onto the local streets to get to Route 20 instead of struggling through the I-84 jam. Unfortunately, we then hit more traffic in Oxford from a construction project (a fast light plus a lane restriction), and that stopped us again - but we finally rejoined the Pike outside of Worcester. The rest of the trip wasn't too bad, though, but we wound up getting home after 11. Ugh.

This morning we all slept in, and I'm here at the office now taking a break from the project I've been working on (prepping the new PCs for my customer that I'll be installing their new network for this weekend). I have a fully booked week ahead of me now.

So I guess I better get back to work...

Footnote: I was away, of course, when the Nomar deal went down, but my opinion is that I like it. As much as I was a big Nomar mark, he was clearly miserable here, and really didn't appreciate the pressure of playing in this town anymore. Plus he has weakened defensively (his arm has become a lot more erratic), and was gone for nothing at season's end. This deal brought in a replacement Gold Glove-caliber shortstop in Cabrera (who also has his contract up at the end of the year), and a terrific defensive 1st baseman with some pop in his bat (who is also signed through next year). If Trot Nixon makes it back to full-time play, then Kevin Millar becomes the odd man out, but with the extra pop in his bat he's found lately he may stick in the lineup despite his defensive shortcomings.

It also shows that Theo has major stones, to dare the wrath of the Fellowship that way. It's potentially a great move. You give up some offense in the drop from Nomar to Cabrera, but you get better defense and a much better defensive 1st baseman - between Millar and Ortiz it was like the second coming of Dick Stuart. That should help the pitchers, especially Derek Lowe. And it frees up between $12 and $15 million that would have gone to re-signing Nomar for next year.

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