Friday, April 29, 2005

Tiggers like to...

Tiggers like to install themselves on my PowerBook. That'll be the guinea pig for the OS, at least until 10.4.1 comes out. The PowerBook isn't as mission-critical as my iMac is. The only thing on the PowerBook that I know will be incompatible with Tiger is PocketMac - the developer has stated that a Tiger-compatible revision will be available within another week or so.

The install itself as an upgrade to Panther is about 2.2 GB in size. Tiger ships on a single DVD.

Where have I been?

I haven't been available much for posting the last few days since I've been pedal-to-the-metal busy. And I've been finishing up at recovering from the minor health problems I had this week (sore throat and cough, as I'd mentioned last weekend). But I landed a few new accounts and hopefully lined up an additional contract to support a company's site move this summer.

Meanwhile, tonight is the long-awaited Tiger launch, and I'm looking forward to it. I will be at the Peabody Apple Store, and I'm going to pick up a client copy of Tiger since I'm not going to get my NFR for a couple of weeks, and I've got some immediate Tiger-related support work. We'll turn it into a night on the town for the family.

If all goes well, the long-promised MCE review will be finished and posted to BNUG's blog sometime tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Memo to self

I just got back from my first morning ride on the new bicycle - it's a lot faster than the old one. And the ride helped me clear a lot of gunk from my lungs, which was a bonus. In keeping with a trend set in the latter part of last year's riding season, Robert blew the ride off - which I kind of expected since it was chilly out (you lazy sack!). However, I do have to make some adjustments to the bike before I head out next (probably Friday morning, if the weather forecasts I saw the other night are accurate):

- Adjust pedals to allow less lateral motion
- Switch seats with the Fuji
- Straighten left control lever
- change angle on bike computer
- Move pump back to downtube

Other than those minor tweaks, the bike (a LeMond Etape) handles nicely, with very little flex. I'll have to learn to trust it more - it can turn much quicker than the Fuji mountain bike I've ridden for the last decade plus can muster, plus it's more stable in a given direction. The Fuji has the nice Specialized road seat I bought for it last year, which I'll move over to the LeMond - the included seat isn't bad but the Specialized is way nicer.

I also should get a different pair of gloves (the ones I have are way too tight, and the stitching is coming out), and maybe a pair of tights for the occasional cold morning. The gloves are important, the tights less so.

Monday, April 25, 2005

My mediocre weekend

Since my last post, I've had a couple of nights' where the combination of a cough (now getting better, thankfully) and a sore throat that feels like I'm gargling with razors have made me rather grumpy. Friday wasn't too bad (and we went out to my bowling league wrap-up banquet that night), but I've felt like crud the last two days. I went to the doctor on Saturday with David in tow and was diagnosed with uvulitis (a bacterial inflammation of the uvula). so I'm on antibiotics.

Otherwise, though, the weekend was OK - I spent a lot of time playing with David despite my lack of energy (we played trains a lot). And I took him to see my broken car, but it was already sealed away in the body shop - a good sign pointing towards rapid return. Which is good, because David has decided he doesn't like the "temporary car" (a 2005 Nissan Quest).

I'm fairly busy this week for the most part, doing a spyware cleanup tomorrow afternoon, a networking job tonight, and having a meeting with a new client in the morning tomorrow for starters. There's a few more things to keep me busy as well. April's been a pretty good month so far.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bam Thwok

I just had One Of Those Days yesterday. Oh, it started well enough, despite my minor cold and sore throat. I took David to school, did some work here in the office, and then went home for lunch and a little bit of home chores before heading in to Cambridge for an ACN regional meeting.

Except I never arrived. While I was heading out of town, I got rear-ended pretty hard by a car driven by the 17-year-old son of a former coworker of mine. He was basically driving like 17-year-olds do - not noticing that, despite the light changing to green, the intersection ahead was congested and none of the cars in front of him had moved yet. So BAM! my trip was over.

After summoning the police to write up the report, I wound up limping the minivan over to the Chevy dealer's body shop, where it will be until sometime next week. I dealt with all the insurance bother, secured a rental car (which the other driver's company will be paying for), and headed on home - by the time everything was taken care of it was about 6PM and there was no way I'd be making it in to Cambridge. So now the insurers are taking care of all the details and I'm driving a rented Nissan Quest.

I did go out with a few folks later for the end of bowling season - our league wrapped up last night (about a month later than usual), so now I have my Wednesday nights free again until fall. Which is good.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Wrasslin' comments

Last night I watched this week's Raw, courtesy of TiVo. Overall, not a great show, though I took two things away from it:

Trish Stratus is a darned good athlete and wrestler. She's a terrific heel - good enough that I don't want to see her turn face again anytime soon. On the other hand, though, there's one thing that's a little disconcerting to me about her - her voice always seems just a little bit too nervous and quavering for my liking. I suspect it's got to do with her Canadian accent, but something about it puts me off, as good as she otherwise is.

And Hogan just plain rules. He's got to be one of the worst wrestlers you will ever see as far as his skills go - and since his hip replacement last year his already limited movement is all but gone. But there's something about Hogan - his presence, his look, his charisma, whatever - that makes you just momentarily suspend all your disbelief and, just for a moment, think "hey - this stuff is real". Maybe it's just nostalgia, and if he was on every week as a regular I'd get sick of him quickly, but when he's used like they're using him right now, Hulk Hogan is a blast to watch.

Memo to jobseekers

My wife has an open position in one of her stores right now. One person who she had an interest in has been, shall we say, aggressive in her pursuit of the job - enough to Jane's office phone 3 times last night between 7 and 9, and once (so far) this morning at about 8:45 or so.

By the way - that's not how you get hired by my wife. She'll be taking someone else.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Quote modification

When I started my company last year, my parents sent me a card right afterwards. It contained the classic Shakespeare quote "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them".

To this, I'd like to add a fourth option:

"...and some bumble along, stare greatness right in the face, and never even know it".

This would be a good addition. I'm hoping to make it to #2 on the list, myself.

Irony in the sporting world

With an American placing fourth in yesterday's Boston Marathon, some pundits are proclaiming that there's a renaissance in distance running here. I'm not sure if that's the case, but we haven't had any truly credible American runners at the marathon distance since the days when I was a distance runner - the mid '80s. So anything must be a step up.

At the same time, cycling has been on an upswing, beginning with Greg LeMond's being the first American ever to win the Tour in the '80s, along with Lance Armstrong's six consecutive Tour wins, Tyler Hamilton's gold medal at the last Olympics, and a slew of Americans riding on the pro circuit. So yesterday, we get Lance retiring and Tyler suspended for the next two years. Go figure.

Though I have a gut feeling that Hamilton is actually clean, but so many people in that sport are dirty that it's not shocking to see that high-profile a bust.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Nyah, nyah

I may not like the food there (except for the one time per year when I get a grease craving), but this KFC manager is my new hero. I only regret that he didn't have a firehose handy to get them completely off his property, too.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Technology marches on

Last year, I started actively riding a bicycle again. When I was much younger and skinnier, I rode regularly right up until I was about 20-ish, and I even held a USCF racing license. I rode with the old Fairfield County Velo Club (we had pink and green jerseys), and competed in occasional time trials and other events (there were a bunch of guys I would go rock-climbing, racing, and mountain biking with - we were into "extreme sports" before they were called that). I sold off my last road bike (a late-'80s Cannondale) in 1992, though, and have owned a mountain bike since then. But when I rode, I was reasonably good at it.

Well, years later, my friend Robert suggested that I train with him to ride the Harbor to the Bay ride that benefits several AIDS treatment groups here in the Boston area. I agreed, and inherited a Schwinn road bike that was rather poorly maintained and had a pretzeled wheel. After I looked into fixing it up at the time, I wound up putting some effort into making my old mountain bike better-suited for road use. A new chainwheel, seat, and pair of semi-slick tires later, and I was in business. So I rode that all last year, and though the ride day was canceled due to Hurricane Ivan, I got into decent shape and was riding around 50 miles on weekends.

This year, though, I wasn't going to struggle with the mountain bike on the road. It was just too much extra effort to keep on doing it (a mountain bike is far heavier than a road bike, with lower-pressure tires, a frame geometry not well-suited to long rides, and gearing that's not optimal for road use). So I started looking around, figuring I had two choices: either restore the Schwinn or replace it. I hadn't put any money into the Schwinn so far so I wasn't really biased either way - I set a budget for repair, and if I couldn't get it done for the price I'd look into buying new.

Well, my main discovery is that cycling equipment has changed. My first road bike was a Trek, purchased in 1982. It had cro-moly steel in the main frame and fork, cheaper steel in the rear triangle, mid-grade components, and was designed for touring and distance riding. It cost my parents about $400, and I soon went on a long hostel tour of Vermont with it. I also converted my old Schwinn 5-speed into a mountain bike as well.

After wrecking the Trek in 1986 (it was pretty spectacular), I bought a Peugeot mountain bike that summer which I held onto for a few years. Decent steel frame, rugged, and it was fun to ride at the old quarries in Milford with the girl I was dating at the time (she lived out there, and she still has an old blanket of mine - rassafrassa!). A couple of years later I bought the Cannondale, and it was darned near a rocket science bike. High-end Shimano components, oversized aluminum frame, stiff as anything and fast. I paid a little over $650 for it, and it seemed like a fortune. Heck, since I had no money at the time, it was a fortune!

So that was my reference point - a 13-year old memory of a racing bike I bought 16 years ago. And since then, virtually all my riding has been in motorized vehicles. Well, things have changed. A lot.

First off, prices have exploded upwards. When I was riding, a steel-framed bike would typically cost around $300-$600, aluminum would run from $500-$1000, and the exotics would top out around $2000. Now, the running order has changed. Entry-level bikes are aluminum, steel is hardly ever used, and when it is it tends to be in the midrange, and both titanium and carbon fiber are super-common - but priced in the $2500-$4000 range. And the base price for a new bike is around $500.

Then, there's a paradigm shift in shifting. There were a couple of choices when I was riding - shifters could be on the downtube (like 90% of bikes did), or for touring bikes they were sometimes on the ends of the handlebars. Shifters generally worked by friction - you'd "feel" the gear into place. With practice it was natural. When I left the sport, the new "index" shifters were just turning up in the marketplace.

When I looked at bikes over the last week I didn't see one road bike that had even a place for shifters on the downtube. Virtually all bikes nowadays have integrated shifting into the main brake lever - flipping a switch on the lever side to upshift and flipping the lever itself inwards to downshift.

Brakes on mainstream road bikes are still side-pull in design - but they've become more intricate. Touring bikes now use cantilever brakes - which when I was riding were only on mountain bikes. The cam-lock brake was popular on mountain bikes when I was riding in the '80s - but now that's completely gone and disc brakes are actually back in use again.

Other areas of technology improvements include the frames themselves (even a low-end bike has carbon fiber components - usually the fork), the toeclip-strap pedal combo has all but vanished in favor of cleated systems (the one trend I embraced early on - I've been using a Look pedal and cleat since about 1988 or so), and virtually every road bike offers a minimum of 21 speeds - when I rode only a double front chainwheel was common and the rear sprocket was usually a 6-speed (for a total of 12). Now it's routine to have even 24 or 27 speeds available.

Also, Shimano seems to absolutely dominate the component business now. When I rode, they were the distant third, behind Suntour and Campagnolo. Well, Campy is apparently a niche player and Suntour has completely vanished (according to Google, they basically folded in the mid-'90s). The product family names are gone (Shimano had Dura-Ace and Deore, Campy had Record and Super Record), so I've pretty much been a newbie all over again.

Anyhow, if you've read this far you are probably wondering "so what, if anything, did I do?" Well, I decided that the bike I was given will be donated back to the bike ride's organizing committee, and if a shop is willing to refurbish it for them it can either be sold to raise money or used as a spare in case anybody breaks down on this years' ride. To replace all the things on it that needed replacing would have cost me nearly $400 in parts, plus either I would have had to take a lot of time to do the work or pay a shop $100 or so to do the work for me. So I was able to find an acceptable price for a '04 model (bikes have model years now, that's another change) at a store down in Newton and I bought a Lemond road bike with an aluminum frame. It may be bottom-of-the-line, but it was the cheapest one they had, and it's light-years from what I used to ride. So now I will be able to actually accelerate when my friends do. That'll be nice.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Pseudo-Random thoughts

First off - the WWE was crazy to release Matt Hardy this week. Just because he went public with the information that Edge was tapping his fiance (Amy "Lita" Dumas), and they had split up as a result isn't a good reason to dump a guy who was one of the top performers you had. With two brands to work with, they could just as easily have sent Hardy back to Smackdown and kept him away from Edge and Lita while the whole situation cooled. Now we'll wind up with both Hardys on TNA (Jeff went there last year), which will probably help them a little in their quest for a better network slot.

Apple officially announced MacOS X 10.4 (Tiger) this morning. It'll be available on the 29th, and any Mac purchase made from today onwards qualifies to get an "Up-To-Date" program copy of Tiger for $10. Tiger will probably be a boon to my business in the short term - it may help me close a few accounts that have been dangling, plus manage upgrades in a few others.

Yesterday was nearly perfect - as a birthday gift, the day was beautiful (if a little chilly), the Sox got their rings, the banner went up at Fenway, they won easily, and A-Rod made a 3-run error. Perfect.

Besides Tiger, there's a lot of work that's started to close lately. Which is good, because the winter months were very spotty for me - I did OK, but failed to anticipate some of the expenses I should have remembered (like my insurance renewal, for instance). And I suspect my deadbeat customer whose dead server I rescued (twice) has gone under - the public site hasn't been updated in forever, and the rescued server itself is now completely off-line. If that's the case, good riddance - you stiff the guy who bailed you out and you deserve to go

The MCE review I'm writing is almost finished. I made a lot of progress on it over the weekend.

Finally for now - I'm so glad the royal wedding Saturday went well. They were going to make a movie about it in Hollywood - except they couldn't use the name they wanted. It seems "The Horse Whisperer" had already been taken. At least they're too old to inbreed further, though.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Trading slots in my Season Passes

I watched the "new" Trading Spaces last night - I'm very mixed in my opinion about it. The good points:

  • Two carpenters - one with each team

  • A little less "stagey" in feel than the last season or so seemed at times

  • The design process came off as a little more collaborative. But that may have been more due to the designers involved (Frank and Gen)

  • After the "reveal", the homeowners met the designers who'd been in their home

  • And here's what sucked:

  • No host to tie the narrative together and guide the reveals

  • Really horribly done reveals, while I'm at it. The homeowners had to stumble through their houses, trying to find the room that had been done. And there's no explanation of what happened in the room, since there's no host.

  • On balance, I think after another week or so it's going to disappear from my TiVo. The only useful competition to TS is ABC's EM:HE, which is both more interesting and has more behind-the-scenes action (on their Monday night show). Other than that, the home makeover show genre seems to be dying off fast.

    I also noted tonight that Town Haul is apparently done after this past week's episode for now. That's fine, too - I was sick of it. There's only so much pseudo-drama and bad camerawork I can take at a time.

    Unwanted advice

    I just read a story about how the opposition in Zimbabwe (which consists of darned near everyone) is all depressed and resigned after Robert Mugabe stole yet another election through rampant fraud.

    Well, not to give out unsolicited advice or anything, but my message to the people of Zimbabwe is this: why don't you stop whining and do something about it? Rise up en masse & force him out - it worked in Ukraine a few months ago, and it worked in that weird little former Soviet republic that where they got all mad a few weeks ago because they had no vowels. Or just have somebody kill him. It works for other tinpot dictators - heck, if someone had had the good sense to do that in Iraq to Hussein when it should have become obvious that our moron-in-chief was nutty enough to actually invade, we might have avoided this war.

    Thankfully, as awful as Bush is we can count on him stepping down legally at the end of this term, as all previous presidents in this nation have. In nations where that doesn't happen, you've got to do something about it yourselves.

    Saturday, April 09, 2005

    I'm mad at my wife

    She had to go into Boston the other day, and while she was at her account there was an event going on, and - well, I'll just let you all see the picture:

    You see what I'm talking about? It looks cruddy because it's only a Polaroid, but still - Jane Turiel, World Series Trophy, no Josh to be found. I'm bitter.

    Friday, April 08, 2005

    I've been occupied

    It's been a really busy week. Which is absolutely doubleplusgood. This is my brief lunch break before I head downstairs and help my one client with a couple of new Bluetooth headsets. I just set up their new Audiovox PocketPC cell phones to use Exchange ActiveSync, and it's pretty darned cool. If it weren't for the fact that (a) I already have a cell phone (b) these Audiovox phones are wicked pricey (c) they're also enormous, I'd be getting myself one. Maybe a Treo 650 next year or something, though. Those sync directly with iSync, as well as support ActiveSync.

    Anyhow, I will get the Windows XP MCE review I talked about a week or so ago finished - hopefully by the beginning of next week. But I'm booked almost as solid next week as I was this week, so I could have worse problems getting in the way of writing.

    Monday, April 04, 2005

    Requiem for a Pope

    I mused a lot about this one before I sat down to write it. Enough people read this blog (according to the stats) and pay attention to my real opinions, that I knew I'd have to comment a little bit on the passing of this Pope. On the other hand, I'm not Catholic, and about as secular as a person can be. So what am I even qualified to say about him?

    Anyhow, I thought real hard, and decided to plunge onwards. Theologically, I'm about as far removed from John Paul II as was possible. So I can't really comment on his theology other than to say I disagreed with absolutely all of it. But that would have been the same for anyone. That said, as a world leader (all Popes, by default, are de facto world leaders) he accomplished some things that were remarkable. He was the first Pope to visit a synagogue. The first to visit a mosque. He had an ecumenical outlook to him that genuinely went a long ways towards helping reduce religious strife between Catholics and others. John Paul II also was the first Pope to fundamentally (and publicly) accept that evolution was a plausible way to explain how species develop. He travelled more than any Pope ever before him, visiting every corner of the globe.

    Even more importantly (from my perspective as a Jew), he did more to reach out to Jews than every Pope before him combined ever did. He tried to eliminate the bias that so many Christians grow up with about us. Although there are still ugly places and people in the world, Pope John Paul II tried to make it less likely that a practicing Catholic would ever seek to wrong me because I was born a Jew, and for that I remain grateful.

    On the other side of his papacy was his doctrinaire conservatism. Since he lasted far longer in the job than virtually any other Pope of the modern era, he has filled the College of Cardinals with extremely conservative Cardinals who, as a group, are anti-reform. For the most part, he avoided dealing with the sexual abuse scandals in this country (though in his defense his health was already declining at that point), which made it more difficult for American Catholics. He allowed his "culture of life" ethic to be distorted by extremists to allow them to focus on abortion to the exclusion of all else. And although I can't really speak on most of his other areas of doctrine, his opposition to both birth control and to IVF struck me as wrong-minded (particularly IVF).

    So as a world leader, I'd say that Pope John Paul II was a great one - although I disagree with some of what he did, he remained true to his own beliefs and within that he worked to make the world a better place for people of all faiths. As a church leader, my opinion isn't quite as glowing - but that isn't my judgment to make so much as it is the judgment of his flock. And, in the unlikely event I'm wrong about my theology, it's the judgment of his Maker that truly matters most.

    In which case he'd probably make out OK.

    Sunday, April 03, 2005

    Why DVD encryption sucks

    I bought the new Here Come the ABCs CD/DVD combo from They Might Be Giants back in February for David. He loves it. In fact, he loves it so much that if it's not in the DVD player already, he goes out, finds it, and gives it to us to put in for him.

    Unfortunately, he hasn't yet mastered the nuances of handling optical media. So it's gotten all smudged, scuffed, and skip-prone, in only about two months. This is not good.

    Well, since it's a DVD, it features both CSS scrambling and Macrovision copy protection, just to prevent us lawless consumers from making copies. Fortunately, though, DVD protection is actually a thing of the past. Because there's all kinds of utilities available to bypass said protection.

    In my case, I used a freeware product called Mac The Ripper to read the original disc (after cleaning it as best as I could), and that wrote the VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS folders on the DVD to my iMac G4's hard drive. That left me with what was essentially an unencumbered copy of the DVD that was otherwise indistinguishable from the original material.

    Then, I used another program called DVD Imager (also free) to drop the folders I wanted copied to a ISO image suitable for burning back to a DVD blank. My only glitch came in burning - for some reason my iMac doesn't like the Memorex DVDs I stocked up on a while back, so I burned two coasters before giving up and transferring the 3.2 GB .IMG file to my PowerBook, where the burn not only worked fine, but worked at 4x. The iMac has a Sony 4x drive, the PowerBook has a Matsushita 4x - but the Memorex media only likes the latter. Who knows why. Anyhow, the disc worked perfectly, so all I have to do now is carefully file away the original DVD and write the title on the one I made with a handy Sharpie. Problem solved, at a cost of about $.50 (not counting the two coasters).

    And for this (bypassing copy protection to make a backup for personal use), the Powers That Be would probably like to string me up a pole.

    Saturday, April 02, 2005

    An irritating web peeve

    I can understand subscribing to web-only news publications for money. Heck, I pay my $35/year for Salon - even though they have been allowing access for free if you watch an ad first. I can also see it making sense when the online edition of a print publication offers additional information and extra articles. And I don't mind web publications that make you register first - though I always use bizarrely faked info and/or just use - if somebody wants to extract information from me in exchange for giving my what I want it's OK.

    What really irritates me is when online publications require you to subscribe in order to get the exact same stuff that's in the dead-tree version. Time Magazine (and most of the Time-Warner family) does that - only releasing a smidgen of their articles online. And the local news conglomerate up here (run by the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune) does that as well - they let you read the front-page articles and the editorials for free, but to read anything else you have to subscribe to the paper. Which is really stupid of them - because if I've read it in the paper why should I give a crap about finding it online?

    This is on my mind because of the recent redesign of the Eagle-Tribune's various websites - they look prettier, but now they give you even less info than before. Until the redesign you could read the front page news, sports, editorials, and letters, along with a daily specials section. Just local news and obits were withheld.

    Now that it's just front page news and editorial (which has now become predictably right-wing), I hardly even bother viewing the site during the week - I know that the odds are against actually getting anything useful there. I still buy the dead-tree version on Fridays (when most of the best stuff runs), but their changes will have the net effect of lowering their impressions, rather than increasing them. Kind of stupid, don't you think?