Sunday, October 30, 2005

News Update

The Pats won, 21-16. Good for them. But they're still not the team to beat this year. The one thing they have going for them, though, is that the AFC East is pretty weak. They may make the playoffs, even. But don't start looking for scalped Super Bowl tickets yet.

That's a long way off.

I've just puzzled something out...

I just realized that the Patriots are just not that good a team this year, and there's virtually no chance that they will repeat as Super Bowl winners. Now I can just relax for the rest of the season.

The old Patriots would have used Tedy Bruschi's return tonight as a reason to just steamroll the hapless Bills. Last years' team would have won by something like a 42-3 score and made it look even easier. Now, with the main offensive and defensive signal callers gone, it's a little more difficult to keep things in order. This year, the injury bug has finally caught up with them. Playing two rookies on Tom Brady's blind side is getting him sacked more, forcing fumbles more, and causing Brady to suffer the occasional burst of Happy Feet - the same affliction that bedeviled his predecessor. Losing the reliable David Patten to free agency and losing much of Troy Brown to age has hurt the receiving corps, Corey Dillon isn't as effective with the revamped line and the vaunted tight ends they have are ineffective as receivers because they've had to primarily worry about staying in to block.

The defense has been shredded by injury. Ty Law is gone, a Jet now, Ty Poole is lost to an ankle injury, and Rodney Harrison was more important than anyone even realized. Besides that, both Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green have been hampered by injuries. Bruschi may be back, but that doesn't go far enough to patch the holes. And so far, the new faces on the defense have been a major disappointment. I thought Starks was supposed to be a shut-down cornerback?

Special teams has also been mistake-prone, giving up way too many big gains on returns, and the whole team has been penalty-prone. Just an off-year. As I type this (with about 6 minutes left), The Pats are making a run at things. Rosey Colvin just made a big play on defense, The Pats now just took the lead back on 2 plays after the turnover, and they may actually beat the Bills today. Good for them. But they should have decimated them - and this is a bad Bills team. They're still my beloved Pats, but if I'm right and they don't win their third in a row, I sure as heck won't be bitter about it.

Just make the right moves for next year, and all will be well...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Wild, The Innocent, and the iPod Shuffle

I just bought an iPod Shuffle tonight - we had to go down to Staples this evening for a couple of things Jane needed for work. Well, I had in my pocket a $12 rewards check, plus I had a 12% off anything (but computers and phone cards) coupon that they'd e-mailed me. Combine that with spotting a sign on the counter advertising HP iPod Shuffles (1GB) for $99, and I figured I'd be silly not to snag it. My net price for what is essentially a 1 GB flash drive that just happens to play music as well - $76. Way better than the $129 it normally sells for. I don't need another iPod (my 40GB 4th gen. iPod is just fine, plus it still has a Firewire interface, which the new ones lack), but I can always use another flash drive - they come in handy. And $76 is a pretty good price for one. I feel clever, indeed.

Besides that, today was fairly relaxing for the most part. We took David in to Boston in a driving snow (in October?) to go to the New England Aquarium (we're members), and had a nice lunch at the nearby Legal first. Yum. There's nothing better than eating fish right before you go see them. Anyhow, his favorite part (besides the jellyfish), was seeing a penguin poop in the water as it swam away from one of the trainers.

Nothing like being three.

On a related note, he was able to go potty four times, with only one wet pull-up. That may be a record. He tried to imitate the penguin on the potty (this is a euphemism - he actually did this before we went out today), but was unsuccessful. However, he was able to fill the pull-up nicely about 1/2 hour later and told me so.

So the overall success/failure ratio for the day was 4/2. but the 2 was a 2. We're on the right track, though. The evening was fairly trying - napless boys tend to cause trouble.

At work I'm in the middle of yet another extremely busy period. I've picked up a few new clients, mostly smaller ones, and I have three confirmed Xserve deployments between now and Thanksgiving. With one more likely in both December and January, minimum. With that I've made the tentative decision to go ahead and outsource my bookkeeping, probably around mid-month when I start my next billing cycle. It's just become too complex for me to handle solo, and since I'll be in a tax-positive situation along with preparing to (hopefully) expand, I need to make sure it's done right - and I don't trust myself to handle that.

Back around the beginning of this year, I was offered the opportunity to buy a competitor's business, and I walked away when it became obvious to me that my picture of the business's value would be far from what the other person thought it should be. With the passing of time, I'm even happier I made that decision, because I would not have been able to handle that volume at the time. Now that I'm growing there on my own, I feel a lot more comfortable.

There you go - a fourfer to finish the week. Tech toys, family fun, potty talk, and business development. I may not have to post for another week!

Friday, October 28, 2005

The good, the bad, and the potty

Here's the interesting thing about David's budding potty habits: he will typically go without complaint - but many mornings when he gets up he refuses to go and has a huge tantrum over it. Other than in the morning it's not typically a problem, and he's getting better at it as well. Our one friend is lobbying heavily for us to just go straight to regular underwear (and stop using pull-ups), but we're very reluctant to take that risk in our house. So far it hasn't really motivated him and just creates more mess.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Spam tales

Due to a convergence of factors, my home e-mail account has been rendered nearly useless by spam. I came up with a (more or less) solution, and I'm posting it later today over on The LANtern, which is BNUG's technical newsletter/blog that we started back up this past spring after a long hiatus from the print days. Look for it by this evening.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Weekend anecdote

As mentioned a couple of posts ago, we went to Rochester last weekend. What I forgot to tell folks was my goof associated with it - it's kind of inevitable that something always gets forgotten when packing. Well, this time it was two things. First, we forgot to pack any extra wet wipes, so we ran out Saturday morning and Jane picked up some more. But that's not the major one.

Saturday morning, I woke up, showered, and got dressed - only to find out that I'd packed everything but underwear. So after reluctantly recycling, we looked for a store I could get a pack at on the way over to my sister-in-law's house - no luck, so after dropping Jane and David off I zoomed off in the opposite direction towards where I knew there were a lot of big box stores. The only problem was the first one I found was a Wal-Mart, which I despise. But I sucked it up and picked up a pack of good old briefs.

I needed some new ones anyhow. But it was one of those goofy things.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

This week's Apple goodies

I didn't watch video from the announcement today, but here's my initial take on the upgrades:

- PowerBook G4: Nice, but obvious. Better resolution is pretty spiffy, faster drives and DDR2 support nice, and the claimed battery life improvement will be slick as well. Unfortunately there's no speedbump - I was hoping for another minor clockspeed improvement (to, say, 1.8 GHz or so). And that will be the end of the G4-based PowerBook line forever (most likely) - they're pretty much the first systems slated for an Extreme Intel Makeover.

-PowerMac G5 (Dually). OK - by switching to the dual-core G5 chip they can get a more powerful box with less cost. Nice. The PCI Express makeover is slick, too. But the new dual processor, dual-core version at the high end is pretty danged sweet - dually duallies are going to rock, even at the slightly reduced clock speed. I'm liking that a lot.

- Aperture: This week's "One More Thing(tm)", Aperture sounds like a nice addition to the pro photography toolset - but not a true Photoshop competitor. Which is good for now - pissing off Adobe is not a bright idea in the middle of a delicate processor transition. It's definitely a shot across their bow, though, and a warning to not drop the ball over the next year or so.

So now since July the whole Apple line has been refreshed - unless Apple drops a bombshell at January MacWorld Expo and announces Intel machines early, there will be at best minor tweaks to the line over the next 6-8 months. Maybe the duallies will find their way into Xserve soon, but I wouldn't bank on it. Enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Minor drawbacks

I've seen some more info on the new iMac models - there are two drawbacks to the design as far as I can see. Not issues for the average consumer, but some folks will be bumming.

1 - The display stand can no longer be removed and replaced with a VESA wall mount.

2 - Most of the iMac's insides are no longer designed to be user-serviceable. There's only one memory slot, though there is 512MB built-in (I'm not sure if it's soldered on or if it's just a hidden DIMM slot inside). However, I don't think it has an effect on the G5's ability to run a wide memory pipeline because the new iMac uses DDR2 memory instead of regular PC3200.

Side note: I think Apple's using a new chipset on this iMac (I haven't seen the developer note yet, but since it supports both DDR2 and PCI Express, that is almost certainly the case). If so, that means this Wednesday's Apple announcement will all but definitely feature a new G5 tower with the same capabilities. I'm also expecting the PowerBook upgrades to be announced either this week or right afterwards. Mac OS X 10.4.3 should also be released shortly as well.

Travel week

I took off most of Friday - we had to drive out to Rochester for the 1st communion of my sister-in-law's middle child (Jane's his godmother). So we hit the road around 10, and drove through pretty steady rain the whole way. Bleh. Traffic wasn't too bad, though, except for a 1/2 hour backup coming out of the Berkshires - a truck had augured in to the hillside near Exit 2 and was being hauled out, blocking a lane off. It was pretty spectacular.

As for the weekend itself, it was something of a blur. We were able to get adjoining rooms at the local Courtyard hotel - David had his first solo king-size bed. And it was affordable because we got an employee discount through our friend. Friday night we unpacked at the hotel, then arrived at our sister-in-law's around 5:30-ish, just in time for the pizza that was ordered for everyone. And David played until the wee hours with his cousins, who all collectively have a mutual admiration society when they're together - especially David and his slightly older cousin Caitlin. We made it back to the hotel around 10 and David was quick to sleep. Jane went and hung out with him for a while that night.

I got to skip much of the Saturday fun - thanks to my brother-in-law. He had a tee time at his club, and I went for my final round of golf for the year (only three times out after June 20th, which is just sad). Penfield Country Club is a nice place to play a round. I won't get into my score, other than to say that I had three bogeys and otherwise hope Chris managed to lose the scorecard. That night was another late one - we all made it back to the hotel well after 10.

Finally, Sunday came and we made it to the church on time. The whole event went off well (I think - being that I'm not even vaguely Catholic I'm not sure on the details), and David behaved better than Jane and I expected. I still had to take him out a couple of times, but since one of those was to go potty it's not bad.

(Potty training has been a two steps forward - one step back kind of deal so far. Right now we're in one of the steps back...)

We went back to the house for a while, and were on the road again in our travel clothes by 3. The drive back was lightning-fast - I only stopped twice briefly (once for gas, once for munchies), and other than a little rain near Syracuse and more going over the Berkshires the weather was cooperative. We made it home around 9:45 that night.

Of course after that I had a real busy work day, and I'm utterly exhausted, but that's besides the point.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

More goodies from Apple

So I spend a couple of days debilitated by a nasty GI bug, only to wake up today all bright-eyed and back to normal, and with an Apple product announcement awaiting me. Cool. Because I was so busy traveling across the globe today (Beverly-Cambridge-Saugus-Peabody-Essex-Gloucester-Gloucester-Essex-Beverly-home), I only read the recaps and spec info - I'm going to watch the stream later. A Steve presentation is always a trip. But here's the basic gist of things, followed by my take:

- iPod: gone. Replaced by a newer, thinner iPod in two capacities (30GB and 60GB), with longer battery life, a bigger screen, thinner size, and - oh yeah - video playback capability along with an Apple-provided remote. Now in either black or white (like the nano) New prices: $299 and $399.

- iTMS: Now supports video - music videos, Pixar shorts, and plenty off ABC/Disney TV shows, all for $1.99. Standard FairPlay restrictions apply. Also a few new features to the iTMS as well.

- iMac G5: Now thinner, with slightly higher speeds (1.9 and 2.1 GHz), DDR2 RAM support, PCI Express video via ATI chipsets, Bluetooth 2.0 (I forget, but 2.0 might also be in the last generation of them, too - I'll check mine at some point), and both a clip-on Apple Remote (see the iPod stuff above) and an integrated iSight camera with some new software. They removed the modem and made it a USB add-on. Same price for the 17" model ($1299), but $1699 for the new 20" model is a little cheaper.

- eMac: Dead. Still available for the short term, but only to educational institutions.

What's slick about these announcements? Apple increased the value of the "classic" iPod, lowered the effective price, and made the video functionality a neat add-on rather than the only reason to own it. If anything, it should build upon the old version's sales. The iTMS video store is obviously a work in progress, with only Disney on-board (and you know the reason they signed was to try and sweet-talk Jobs into a new distribution deal for Pixar - big bucks are at stake). But it's a great way for Apple to dip their toes in the video market, a good starting point to determine if digital movie distribution is viable, and it's at virtually zero risk. The iPod will sell like hotcakes, regardless, and if the videos don't sell Apple can just de-emphasize them. The new iMac G5 was a surprise, but a nice one. It replaces a version that was a pretty good value already, and only four months old to boot (I've only had mine about a month). It's an even better buy - especially the 20" model. The eMac won't be too missed - not many folks have been interested in them of late anyways, and the mini is a better value with a third-party LCD for most users who want a budget Mac. The eMac was originally developed for the EDU market, and it returns there for now.

The only major negative I see in the new iPod is for the diehard Mac user - the iPod no longer includes FireWire support. Only USB 2.0. Which makes no difference for the typical user, especially a Windows one. But FireWire hard drives have one handy capability you don't get in a USB 2.0 drive on the Mac - you can boot from a FireWire hard drive. My existing 40GB iPod, for instance, has about 12GB of music on it, plus a fully bootable copy of Mac OS X and the install image to reinstall to any Mac if needed. It was a great tool to have. While far smaller and cooler, the new iPods won't be able to do that kind of double-duty anymore. So sad.

Still to come from Cupertino? Sometime real soon there should be one final PowerBook revision as the pre-Intel speedbump. I was kind of expecting it today - instead look for a quiet announcement in the next couple of weeks as likely. PowerMacs will also get another rev pretty soon. That one may be played up a little more, depending on what Apple is going to put under the hoods. I figure if they haven't announced it by the first week of November it won't be out until 2006. They aren't nuts about any product updates in the November-December timeframe.

Friday, October 07, 2005

One of these days...

Eventually I am going to re-do this blogsite with a new template and heavy customizations.

Right after the MacArthur committee shows up with the grant money. That could buy me the time.

Oh well.

I'm going to be a typical provincial New Englander (credit to the departed Ted Sarandis for the concept - even though I couldn't stand him and I'm glad he's off the air) and say that I no longer have any rooting interest in the playoffs. Other than to see the Yankees lose too, I hope.

This team simply was not built to win in the playoffs. It's a credit to Terry Francona that they were able to hold together well enough to tie in the East and make it in the first place, but you don't win in the postseason without big studs in the rotation. And we lacked them this year. Maybe Schilling is back at 100% next season - that'll go a long way towards helping. But with Matt (Young) Clement as an anchor they aren't going too far. David Wells was effective, but he'll be 43 next year, and unless you're Roger Clemens time eventually wears you out. Wells showed signs of that this year.

On the bright side - Jonathan Papelbon is the real deal. I expect him in the rotation. Craig Hansen may well make us not miss Keith Foulke (look for him to go away somehow next year), but may also need a little more minor league time first. Manny Delcarmen should stay as a reliable setup man, and Lenny DeNardo showed signs of making The Leap. He could be pretty versatile, too. Add a solid starter in free agency, and we should be OK in the pitching department.

On the field is another story. Kevin Millar is almost certainly gone. Edgar Renteria was OK (despite the 30 errors), but not worth the $10 million he's getting. Please don't trade Manny in the offseason, re-sign Damon, and keep Mueller if you can sign him for fairly short money. Put Youkilis at first, and hang on to Tony Graffanino (I'm not sure what his contract status is). Offense wasn't the team's weak point this year, pitching was. Losing Millar's $3 million and replacing it with the short money Youkilis gets frees up some money for pitching (or re-signing Damon).

The Sox were playing with house money this year, and they still made it to the playoffs despite a ravaged rotation and no bullpen. Not bad for a year's work.

Monday, October 03, 2005

How to be a moderate success in the tech biz

1: Do what you say you're going to do.
2: Keep your enemies close - keep your friends closer.
3: Don't make excuses.
4: Not every thing you try works - be prepared to do a full post-mortem on the things that fail.
4 (a): the experience will help you figure out what you did wrong in the first place.
4 (b): And hopefully you won't make the same mistake again.
5: Love what you do. It helps.
6: Fish where the fish aren't - because in the IT consulting business there's a lot more mediocre consultants competing with you in most markets. I do a lot of Apple work - there's not that many fish, but even fewer fishermen chasing them.
7: Learn, learn, learn!
8: In a related vein, try and dogfood as much as you can in your practice. It's a lot easier for you to support it if you use it yourself.
9: Remember, 99% of your clients don't speak your tech language - nor do they want to. Speak to them in English, even if you have to over-simplify. If they want more detail, they'll let you know.
10: Customers are customers. Computers are computers. Both big words that start with "C", but you can bend a computer to your will if you want to. You can't do that with a customer, nor should you. Keep that in mind.