Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Minor mechanical issues

David went to our friend Lori's house after school today to play (her daughter is David's age). Jane dropped him off, then went to a hair appointment and came home - and once she got here we headed out to do a couple of errands and then pick him up.

So the main stop was the Liberty Tree Mall, where I had to go return a headset at Best Buy and Jane went to get some plastic travel bottles at Target. When we started the car up again, though, the headlights were dead. First "real" problem I've had with this car. After some fiddling, I found that the high beams still worked fine, so I switched them on for the remainder of the drive tonight. And now instead of getting up early for a bike ride, I have to get up early for a trip to the dealership. Hopefully it's just either the fuse or the switch (I checked the fuse, which appeared fine, but I couldn't tell for sure given the limited light). The parking lights and all the interior lamps are fine. Lacking sufficient outside lighting, I couldn't tell if the DRLs work or not, but I suspect not.

Fortunately the dealership has free WiFi, so I can at least be productive while I wait. They open at 7:30.

You Da Man!

This Monday, I played in the Beverly Chamber of Commerce's golf tournament, held at the Ferncroft Country Club in Middleton (before that, though, I had to make an emergency run to Gloucester to help a customer). It took me a while to get comfortable with my driver, but by the back nine, I was booming the drives way out there and helping the team make a brief run. I even reached the 500+ yard 18th green in two shots (305 drive, 205 from the fairway), and then sank the birdie putt as well. It was nice to play well for a change.

Yesterday I worked with a client I handle on a subcontract from another vendor, and did some planning for them. Today I head to Boston shortly, for an afternoon follow-up with another client, and then tomorrow I'm pretty busy before starting a brief vacation wrapped around the 4th.

Quick thoughts on other topics: George Bush is a pathetic clown - an absolute asshat of a human being who is trying every trick in the book to make his pet war seem like a good idea - now he's recasting it as part of the war on terror when he originally sold it as a project to disarm Hussein. Yeah, Iraq's full of terrorists. Now that you basically invited them in. Freakin' war criminal.

And as for his sycophants on Fox News, Sean Hannity is a brownout stain on the tighty-whities of this nation. Even just hearing soundbites of him makes me feel ill. Bill O'Reilly is just a vile blowhard who couldn't use all his Factor money to buy a clue if he tried, and Geraldo has descended somewhere into that netherworld of mental illness that Tom Cruise seems to be veering towards, too.

On a more mundane note, I've had my Treo 650 for about two weeks now, and overall I like it. It does have it's share of quirks, though, most notably absolutely abysmal Bluetooth headset support. Though I get very good sound quality, upon connecting the headset the connection drops within 5 seconds - you can still use it but you have to manually wake the headset as soon as you dial. Hopefully it'll be addressed in the overdue Cingular firmware update - so far Palm has released the updates for unlocked GSM phones, Sprint, and Rogers. We're still waiting on the 650 updates for Cingular and Verizon - but Verizon only shipped them in the first place about a month ago.

There's an elaborate procedure I can use to manually re-flash the phone with the unlocked GSM update, but there's enough of a risk of Bad Things happening that I'm not going there.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I never thought I'd agree with Scalia

Generally, where I'd stand on a Supreme Court decision is on the opposite side of whatever side Scalia is on. This time, I'm right there with him. Private property is private, and not there for the government to reallocate to other private developers. Eminent domain should only be used sparingly, and is only for the public's direct benefit. Enabling a big private downtown development is not an appropriate use, and ergo the Supreme Court has issued its most inane decision since Bush v. Gore.

Sandra Day O'Connor's dissent was terrific, by the way, and someday when the decision is justly set aside by a later Court, it'll be referred to extensively.

By the way, tonight we took David to his first baseball game (the North Shore Spirit independent minor league team in Lynn). He loved it. But I think mostly he loved the playground they had, the popcorn, the peanuts, the mascot, and seeing his friend Ciera there. The baseball, while fun, was strictly secondary.

Memo to Verizon

I'm not using your DSL. I'm not going to use your DSL if I can help it. Not at home, and not at the office. I will never use PPPoE. I will never use a service that doesn't allow servers as part of their ToS. I don't hate you - I use your mobile data service with my PowerBook, and I use you as our local carrier at home for all 3 lines we have, as well as for both of my office lines. I have Centrex, even. You're a decent phone provider and if your family plan pricing had been better a couple of years ago I'd be using you for our cell phones, too.

So stop sending us DSL promotional mailings. Please. Between work and home, you must be wasting between $5 and $10 per month trying to pimp DSL to me. I'm not going to buy it. Period. Give up, save some money, and lower my frigging rates instead!

(However, when you start offering me FiOS at home I may change my mind - provided you let me run my web and e-mail server)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Where do I begin?

How about with chronological order. Thursday, I got a call from David's school just before 3 - he was running a low fever and was felling awful. He perked up when I arrived to pick him up, but otherwise was felling blah. Unfortunately, the fever meant he had to stay home Friday, so Jane and I both scrambled to rearrange our schedules. I was only able to spend about an hour and a half with customers because I watched him most of the day.

He got better quickly, though, and was pretty much his old self by Saturday. Jane worked a pretty long day that day, so he and I had quality time.

We're now a one-cat home again. Danny made his final trip to the vet last night - he was about 14 and just generally miserable and full of hate for all of us. He had arthritis, and towards the end wouldn't even let us close enough to him to groom him or cut his nails. Rather than spend oodles of money on him with no real likelihood of success (and the probability of still having a cat who hated us), we did the expedient thing. However, we ducked the issue entirely with David and told him that Danny left us and moved away. He even said goodbye (from a distance - he was afraid of Danny).

On a more pedestrian note, I got a Treo 650 yesterday. I got it directly from Palm for less than Cingular wanted to sell it for, and with no contract extensions required. Nice. It's bigger than my old T637, but not ridiculously so. And after a little funkiness, everything works fine. iSync picked it up with no problem, but I did have one issue with it - since I already had a prior Palm, on my first hotsync I wound up with lots of junk I didn't need - including a system patch for my old Tungsten that screwed up a lot of things. So I had to learn how to do a warm reset so I could remove it (page 168 of the manual). THen it behaved fine after rebooting. I've set them up for customers, so I knew what to expect. The only catch is that Palm's released Treo firmware upgrades for all but the Cingular and Verizon models so far that fix a lot of bugs. There's no ETA for the Cingular version.

I may be something of a tech whiz, but last night I almost ruined my e-mail system. Duh. I was trying the migration from the old SME server to the Tiger-running mini that I already serve my website from. And I managed to flush my Inbox completely - 2600+ messages worth. So at a quarter of 11, I was on my way to the office so I could recover the message IMAP cache from my iMac (successful), after which I ran an Applescript-based utility to extract the IMAP cache to MBOX files, then I moved it all into new accounts on the Tiger server. Once I did that and verified that all the mail had moved (counting mailing list archives and sent mail, it came out to over 6000 messages since last April), I then went to the trouble of setting up some root-level folders so I could sort it easier, and keep the Inbox itself from getting too big. I broke it down by quarter - now I'm down to 197 in the Inbox itself (I only kept from 6/1 onward right there). Much more manageable.

The suck part was that I got home at 1 from all this. The good part is that I fixed a PC that I had there gathering dust I'd picked up from a customer while I was waiting on the e-mail move, so I made money while I was there.

Which is good, because I may spent it on coffee today. It's going to be a long day...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Idle thoughts du jour

When I read the description of Terri Schiavo's brain from today's released autopsy report, for a moment I thought it was a description of Shrub's instead.

My mom tells me the falcons are going to fledge soon. That means we're going to get her back from Bird Nerd land any day now...

As predicted, it's been a busy but not insanely so week so far. Which is good. And the receivables are starting to come in, too - I may even pay myself by week's end.

Interesting book - The Secret Life of Lobsters, by Trevor Corson. Not the most socially significant book I've ever read, but it's making my favorite meal look like a lot more than just a big aquatic cockroach.

I'm doing research for a possible project for one of my clients on SANs - really cool high-tech stuff. I'm looking primarily at Xiotech, with the possibility of overlaying a SAN filesystem on Apple's Xserve RAID chassis as another option.

Sadly, I did not golf last week due to extreme busyness. That marks the first league week I've missed without a medical reason in several years. The sad part is that I've sucked so badly the first couple of times out that the penalty really didn't hurt my average at all - it's early enough in the season that I'm still working off last years' average. I had originally planned to golf today, but the weather is not cooperating. And I had to ride the bike inside, too. Summer was here for about a week, and then was cruelly snatched away by the jetstream.

After I post this, I need to go pick up David - Jane's winding her way back from Maine right now. Then we have split duties - I have to go restock the diapers while Jane and David take Gracie to the doctor's for her annual exam.

I'd take David with me, but I'm third on his list of favorites - behind Jane and Gracie. He's just a real ladies' man.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Things worked out OK. I wound up showing up at my first site at 7:30 in the morning, before anyone arrived as it turned out. So I sat in front of the door, fired up my PowerBook, logged on their server with ARD and started working. By the time I left around 3, I had everything important working and finished - there's just some follow-up issues and training to do and that's not as urgent (though I will be doing some of it tomorrow). I didn't have to go to Norwood, and I made it back to my office in time to take care of cleaning up one of the two PCs I planned for tomorrow.

Which is good, because I added one client visit to my afternoon tomorrow. It's a relatively rare four-client day Friday - I start by dropping off David at school and seeing one client in my building, followed by a trip to Salem, lunch (if there's time), a drive to a Mac client in Manchester, and then a Windows client in Wenham before heading home. But it's a manageable schedule, and none of it is high-pressure stuff.

Unless I get up at the crack of dawn Sunday and walk on the course, there is no way I'll be getting my round of league golf in this week. First time in years I've missed a week. That kind of sucks. I do plan to ride my bike early Saturday, before Jane goes to work. Maybe about 15 miles or so - I haven't been riding much at all this month.

Next week looks to be a little bit of a respite, but the following week already has three days booked - each job taking a half-day or more. One of them is a prepaid contract job, though, but that lets me recognize the quarterly revenue. Which I don't fully understand, so it's a good thing I have Quickbooks and a good accountant.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Out of gas

Monday, I worked pretty much the whole day solid. Tuesday, I was at multiple sites during the day, worked until 8PM, and did a product demo. Today, I worked for two different clients and met with another in the evening - another night home at 8ish.

For Thursday, I have to spend the morning wrapping up the server install I've been doing the previous two days, then potentially head down to Norwood to work the afternoon. Friday I have to fix two spyware-infested PCs that have been gathering dust in my office since I picked them up from two different clients. Next week and the week after are already booking up quickly, and I have several new clients who have projects for me to tackle over the next month or so. My beginning-of-July vacation down at the Jersey Shore is looking like it might not happen - I will probably be working while Jane and David head south to cavort.

Yes, I'm totally overextended now, and I will find some sort of solution before I start messing things up for customers. I will not allow that to happen. Period. But I'm still working on the details part.

For now, I'll go to bed. I have to be on-site at 8 tomorrow.

Monday, June 06, 2005

They went the whole hog...

It turns out Apple is going for it big-time, and transitioning to Intel. Big risk - even bigger payoff if it works. The challenge will be to keep the pipeline flowing during that transition period. It'll be the better part of a year until the first x86 Macs ship, and in the meantime they need to keep users buying PPC systems. Hmm.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Wild Speculation

Unless you're been living in a cave, you've probably heard that Steve Jobs is expected to announce Apple's move to Intel processors at tomorrow's WWDC keynote. I've been wrong before, but I don't think that's going to be the story.

What I suspect is this: Apple will continue to sell PowerPC-based desktop computers, just like they do now. But the current Apple server offerings (Xserve) are limited - the max configuration only offers 2 processors in a 1U chassis. So Apple will keep on selling Xserves, but they will start offering OS X Server for Intel processors. That solves about 99% of the application compatibility issues that you'd have with a desktop move, opens up the server market to new vendors, and potentially gives Apple more of a toehold in the enterprise market. Maybe Apple brands Intel-based servers themselves, or maybe they license OS X Server for x86 to OEM vendors. Either way, it opens up the market, gives Microsoft a little more competition, and paves the way for Apple to have the option of a desktop switch as well down the road (get ISVs used to producing PPC/x86 fat binaries).

Whatever it is, we'll find out tomorrow.

As for the vacuum question, David and I went to several places yesterday afternoon to try and test-drive some models. We wound up settling on the Dyson DC14 - the base model was about $420 and a lot more palatable price-wise than the fancier Animal models or the DC15 "Ball" version (that one, though real neat, was $600!). After doing a little bit of cleaning with it, it is an impressive little device, and I now understand why the owners have spoken so highly of it. I'm still a little put off by the "yuppie toy" image, but given the performance I think I'll get over it.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Suck

We're shopping for a new vacuum right now. Our 13-year-old Oreck has already had one servicing a couple of years ago, and we don't want to sink more money into it. Plus the canister vac that came with it had a bag failure a month or so ago (my fault - I let it get overloaded), and now the insides of it look like a fragmentation grenade went off in there. It's seriously busted up. As great as our Roomba is, you need a real vac for heavy-duty cleaning, corners, stairs, and spot work.

So we're pretty much decided on a new one. A month or so ago, I borrowed the January Consumer Reports from my folks - it had vacuum reviews galore. We know we want another upright. So that's all I've looked at. Here's the dilemma. The top-rated vac is a Hoover - the WindTunnel Self-Propelled Ultra. I'd buy the bagless version if I bought it. It can be had for around $300. So I went to Amazon to look further at it and read reviews.

It's thoroughly hated by almost everyone - though it cleans well, it's apparently unreliable as all-get-out. Average rating - two stars. Second on the list is the Eureka Boss Smart Ultra 4870. It's only $140 (and their CR Best Buy), but it's not self-propelled. Which means that I'd have to do 100% of the vacuuming. I'd rather share. It also gets mixed reviews on Amazon.

I won't buy Kenmore after the fiasco with the TV a year or so ago (see old posts for details - basically I had to haul a 36", 250lb TV to the local Sears and then back again after they decided not to let us exchange it). The high-rated Kirby costs $1330 - for that, I'd buy a used Segway instead. The only other vacuums high-rated on the list are another Oreck and the Dyson DC07.

I don't want the Oreck, especially since it's $700. And I really don't want a separate canister vac anymore. This leaves Dyson, and I'd probably go with the newer DC14 model. But here's the dichotomy. CR thought the DC07 was discernibly worse than the Hoover and Eureka. But, if you go on Amazon, you'll see testimony after testimony as to how wonderful the Dysons are. So, just by real-world consumer ratings, I should buy the Dyson. It's just a little tough to justify a spendy kind of vacuum like that, plus they're the latest yuppie thing so I'm turned off by that, too. Grumble.

Now that I just wasted 5 paragraphs on vacuum talk, on to reality. Jane's on her way to Portland right now for a trade show (she said she'd wave on her way through Newburyport, Woodge). She'll be home pretty late. I've got David today, and we've got a birthday party to go to at noon. And the week was absolutely nutty - several new clients and a scad of billable time in only a 4-day week. Next week is like that, too. Time is starting to become a commodity that I'm short of.

A good problem indeed.