Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sold American

I made a major change this week - I am no longer a minivan driver (I really never was that fond of it). Buying a minivan was a knee-jerk reaction to a couple of things that, at the time, seemed compelling: first of all, we were contemplating the possibility of additional children (this now seems very unlikely), and also a panicked response to how much baby junk we traveled with. We didn't get out much in those days, but in the winter of 2003 when David was about 9 months old, we went away with a gigantic travel system stroller, a pack & play with a changing table accessory, milk & formula supplies, diaper bags, and so many toys that we didn't have room in our Olds Bravada SUV for luggage. So I traded in my 2-year-old Olds for a Chevy Venture (losing about $10000 in depreciation at the time), and bit the bullet. Jane kept her small sedan.

Well, after about 6 months we weren't carrying the travel system anymore (a small umbrella stroller did the trick), and by his second birthday we'd ditched the pack & play (he was sleeping in beds by then). And sometime over this past winter we dumped the diaper supplies, because David finally potty-trained himself (anyone notice I don't write about that stuff anymore?). When I combined that with the litany of things that, though not a lemon, just were sucky about the van (water in the left headlight that wouldn't go away, way too much rattling for my liking, inconvenient to reach and operate rear seats, only four people seated in the front two rows, a leak in the rear door that I've had on and off ever since being rear-ended last spring, etc.), we decided to unload it while it still had some value.

After shopping the Internet, I finally bought a new midsized SUV - a Kia Sorento. Sadly, this ends for now a 23-year tradition of buying American-made cars (since trading in the Saab 9000s I bought from my parents I've owned a Dodge Intrepid, a Chevy Blazer, an Olds Bravada, and finally a Chevy Venture). But nothing American could match the Kia for features or price - and that's a bad sign for American carmakers.

The good news is that Jane will probably be replacing her car within the next year, and several of the leading candidates for that role are American-made. She hasn't owned an American car since her 1981 Chevy Monte Carlo.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ask and ye shall receive...

So yesterday morning I whine about Xserve - later that day it goes online for ordering. But there's one catch, and it's a big one. The G5 Xserve had available hardware RAID. Sure it was just a MegaRAID controller wth no GUI and no monitoring/live rebuild, but it was still hardware RAID 5. The new Xeon Xserve has no such option. I'm not sure what crack they were smoking over in the hardware group on this one.

Granted, it's a cable-free design now (they attach to a backplane - on the G5 version the drive cages were cabled to the controller), but they could at least have done what Dell and Compaq did in their designs - use a daughtercard to add RAID to the on-board controller. That would have been a simple option to engineer in, and it's been done by countless vendors.

Other than that, the price is great, and the specs amazing. Tom Yager over at InfoWorld loves the design, which is a nice plus. But losing hardware RAID is a major problem, and I'm going to have to think of Plan B options for some of my clients who may otherwise be priced out because they can't afford an Xserve RAID.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

No Xserve for you. Not yours.

Apple finally released the Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros yesterday (a month after I needed it), which is good, but still no availability on the Xeon Xserve - and right now I have three clients anxiously awaiting their release (or at least an order date) so they can get their projects underway. Add that to the three Windows servers I'm working on (two new orders, and one I'm rebuilding), and that keeps us going on server projects through year-end.

I'm even happier I have help now than I was a week ago...

Also, I am no longer the owner of a poop-brown minivan - I picked up a Kia Sorento yesterday, which is much prettier and more useful overall than the minivan was, without any of the "bleh" that driving the Chevy induced. That's good. Other than that, I'd say more but I'm off to work already!

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Last weekend we went down to Allentown, PA (like Lawrence, MA with hills, and I dont' mean that in a good way) for a big family reunion on my mother-in-law's side of the family. Overall, things went well, even though we stayed at a hotel convenient to several pawn shops and a crackhouse. The only tough moment was at breakfast our first morning - I was still on my way down from the hotel room at the time, but while I was on my way down, David was clowning around too much with his cousins and, daredevil that he is, he managed to flip down off the back of his chair and whacked his head on something. He managed to give himself a big welt and cut on his forehead, over his left eye. I came down seconds after he did it - Jane had zipped off to get him ice, and I inherited cuddle duty until he settled down.

Anyhow, after a busy week this week and a weekend visit from his best friend Jonathan, he was finally settled down tonight and took his pre-bedtime bath. And after his bath, I dried him off and told him to go over to his room to put his pajamas on - Jane was waiting in there for him.

Well, he covered his head with the towel, took off sprinting, and almost made it. Except he managed to run straght into his doorframe. Head-first.

The resulting welt was in exactly the same spot as his one from a week ago. But at least there wasn't any blood!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Confounded by Apple

I'm usually pretty good at Apple tealeaf reading - I have a few sources who are good, combined with knowing what websites typically have better sources than me (most of 'em, which is why I don't spend my days running an Apple blog for profit). I also know enough industry background so I can usually predict what direction that Apple is likely to go in.

On the other hand, I've been caught by surprise many times. The switch to Intel was a gobsmacker. Releasing two systems (iMac Core Duo and MacBook Pro) at MWSF this year, only six months after the initial announcement was a big stunner.

And the fact that Apple has yet to release a Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro is a big surprise, too. All the other major manufacturers announced and are shipping their Merom notebooks (Merom is the original Core Duo with a larger cache and 64-bit X86 support - AKA the Core 2 Duo). Apple themselves stuck Merom into the iMac already. But Merom is a chip for portables. So why hasn't it made it to the Apple portables yet?

I'm going to speculate wildly here, but maybe they're waiting for the next forthcoming chipset from Intel before they release. Or they are redesigning the enclosure (the current MacBook Pro is basically stuffed into a modified PowerBook shell). Or maybe it's just because they can't get enough CPUs from Intel right now.

Either which way, the ramifications to me were that I had to cave and buy a current MacBook Pro while I was on vacation two weeks ago (we were down on the Vineyard the last week of September) - otherwise I wouldn't have had a computer for my employee I hired (I stole her from Apple). The upside is that the 17" MacBook Pro (which I bought) is a nice piece of hardware.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Memo to the Mouse

We enjoyed our trip to Disneyworld last year at Thanksgiving. Really, we did. We might even come back down there in the next year or so.

But we absolutely do not want your damned Disney Rewards credit card. Really, we don't. So please stop sending us 3 or so solicitations per week for it. You're not going to break down our resistance - the only thing in our house likely to break from these is our cross-cut shredder. We aren't getting any more credit cards. Honest.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A modest proposal

Here in Massachusetts, a panel just recommended that we raise our gas tax by 9¢ to pay for infrastructure, keep the Mass. Turnpike Authority around forever, and assign several more roads to them so that tolls can be added if need be.

I have a better idea. Massachusetts gas prices are some of the lowest I've seen around in my travels. And the roads are used by nearly everyone. Our existing toll structure has some serious inequities (people like me who come from the North Shore, for instance, pay a whopping $3 toll, but people who come in from most of the northwest or the entire South Shore pay nothing - and folks who live to the west pay at most about $2). We have a big state agency (the Turnpike Authority) that is filled with redundant employees, we have hundreds of tolltakers, it's just a big mess and in this state, it's even more patronage-laden than most.

So what we do is this. First of all, we raise the gas tax by 20¢. Sounds bad, huh? But with that money, we eliminate all tolls everywhere on the Pike and related roads. Disband the Turnpike Authority and move all debt obligations to the general fund.

The catch is that in enabling the 20¢ increase, that entire sum must be assigned to a separate fund specifically for highway construction and maintenance - and not available to the general fund. And given our track record of the Legislature's obeying the law (how's that 5% income tax rate working out?), I'm not sure they can do it.

Plus it looks like a tax increase, even though it's approximately revenue-neutral. And voters are so stupid they probably wouldn't get it.