Saturday, December 29, 2007

I stumbled onto this site, I'm sure many of us are familiar with the so called Nigerian scams. This site is a good educational tool exposing many of the tricks and tools of scammers. The setup videos are pretty corny - I can't imagine anyone falling for that guy but it does illustrate the concepts. I suspect the real scammers are much more convincing.

Gee, it'd be nice if people were just honest...or if we could declare it open season on scammers and pass out shotguns.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The physics of coke cans

Rich was dropping Diet Coke cans into the door slot of our fridge and one took a bit of a nose dive down the slot, and we discovered just how thin skinned a Coke can is.

Fortunately this was not the can that Grant shook up. That one is one of these...

Coke and a smile becomes Coke and a towel. Never a dull moment at Vistasc - er, Siemens...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Wrong. Just wrong

Ok, I'm warped. But I like this banned 7-up commercial (so they say).

Friday, November 23, 2007

iPhone update - iBrick yet again

Ok - I'm never updating my iPhone again. This sux - I finally get around to updating it and I get an error "The iPhone ...could not be updated. An unknown error occurred (1602)". It's a known iBrick party. WTF? I don't remember if that was the same error I got for 1.1.1.

This is pretty stupid. Both times I've updated the software it has failed and this phone has not been hacked. I learned a lesson, though - sync the phone first (that is, say 'No friggin way' to the update message when the iPhone is connected) and do a normal sync. Then go back and update the software if that's what you want to do. I've lost all the data on my phone since the sync yesterday. That means the notes and numbers, etc that I got from visiting family yesterday for Thanksgiving are all lost. Probably all the pictures too - though iPhoto may have gotten them first. Nice.

Oh, and restoring a few gig's of data? Ya - settle in. It takes a good while... I figure the battery will be mostly charged up by the time it's done, though.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Charging an iPod with an Onion?

I've not gotten around to hacking my iPhone. But I regularly find myself out and about with an uncharged iPhone. Here's new twist on an old school science project with practical value - hey, could this also reduce out dependency on foreign oil? I can see it now - the price of onions have skyrocketed on the Chicago commodities exchange with the announcement that Onions have solved the worlds energy crisis. (Sounds like an Onion article).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Aww - they're buddies

This mouse has the right type of friends. A monsoon brought together two unlikely friends.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Linguistic Profile

I love the 10% Dixie and 10% Yankee part. Sounds like inner turmoil to me...

Your Linguistic Profile:

60% General American English

15% Upper Midwestern

10% Dixie

10% Yankee

0% Midwestern

Not sure about this one though...

Your Inner European is Italian!

Passionate and colorful.
You show the world what culture really is.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

New Starbucks!

I've sort of accepted that Cumming is out in the sticks - that may be changing. Over the past year we've seen a rather large swath of trees clearcut near exit 13 & 400, and a lot of construction activity. I had heard that a nice shopping area was coming in complete with new restaurants. To my delight there is a new, very large Starbucks among the shops, and it has a drive-through! The nice thing is that this is on my side of 400 and right along the path I take to get from my house to 400. Sweet!

The front area has lots of warm-weather outside seating.

One of the nice "nooks". There are actually 4 different inside seating area - some with tables some in nice chairs. Good hanging out place. They say it's the 2nd largest Starbucks in Georgia.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Leopard dislikes

Yes sports fans, Apple is not perfect after all :)

Overall I like the updates to the new Mac OS. Apple just won't give up, however, on their .Mac failed science experience. I don't like how there are icons in my top status bar and in the finder left nav bar for .Mac: iDisk - bah. I understand what they are trying to do but seriously wish it was not visible. Unfortunately, I've not found a way of hiding it altogether, so I am constantly presented with Apple's plea for me to iWeb my iMac. Why pay $99 to get what I get free from, say, Google?

I also detest the new login screen. It's an awful new age-ish aurora sorta space looking deal. The usually stylish Apple took a turn that at least to me isn't all that tasteful with this whole space theme. Turns out, it's easy to change with a bit of a hack. In the folder System/Library/CoreServices there is a file DefaultDesktop.jpg - change that and viola! Um, it's not all that simple, however. Being a Unix filesystem it's a little tricky. You must be logged in with admin rights.
  1. Find a suitable picture for the background
  2. Name it DefaultDesktop.jpg in a folder other than the CoreServices - say, the desktop
  3. Remove the current DefaultDesktop.jpg from CoreServices. You will need to enter your administrative password
  4. Copy in the new DefaultDesktop.jpg. You will need to enter your password
You could probably do it all from a shell window as root much easier. I found that from Finder I was unable to rename files in that folder.

Finally, I was so pleased to see my local network servers and workstations appear in my finder. The bummer is that they no longer show up. And I'm back again unable to connect to the Windows machines. That's a serious downer because I was finally tempted to make this my primary personal workstation. The continued inability to seamlessly connect to the network servers really means that for me this is really just a high priced Internet kiosk.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Leopard chapter 2

Well, I got home and restarted the iMac to figure out what the wireless problem was. It came back up and the wireless was working just fine. Go figure. It took me about a millisecond to change the desktop from the funky aurora whatever to something nicer. I like the Japanese temple by the lake. Peaceful. It'd make a great summer home :)

I've played around with it a little - the bomb! I can access my windows shares on my servers and desktop machine. I had never gotten that to work before but now I entered my Windows credentials in the login popup and can see the shared folders. Awesome.

I also like the spaces - the multiple desktops. And over all it feels snappier, though some things are slower to come up. I like that when I turned on my Western Digital "My Book" external drive (with the intention of setting up the "Time Machine" backup service) the OS popped up a message asking if I wanted to use it for the Time Machine and automatically set it up. Nice.

I really like the Parental Controls - there was some before but I think it's been updated. It looks very useful.

So ya - I think I'll keep it :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Installed Leopard

I installed Leopard last night on my first-gen Intel iMac. Here are my observations:
  • The box is cool - naturally.
  • Don't try to use the Apple Bluetooth wireless mouse. It won't work. I had to dig out a USB mouse to continue after the initial reboot. I guess the Bluetooth drivers are not loaded.
  • What was that long "checking DVD" for consistency? I finally walked away to read Blake his bedtime story. Upon returning (and it was still chugging along) I noticed the "skip" button and took it as good advice.
  • The DVD on that iMac is slooowww. I've always know that - I can rip a CD on my Windows PC in about 1/4th the time. Installing this OS was painfully slow - I finally went to bed.
  • Woke up and it was at the login screen. After a painfully slow wait it finally brought up the setup assistant.
  • It failed to find either of the two wireless networks covering the area. Something's not happy. Guess it waits until tonight.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

For those who understand...

...a picture is worth a 1000 words...

Rich is just looking out for his coworkers... This may be the new strategy for ensuring that all is well in the parking deck in the mornings. Last person to leave pops the trashcan into his spot (assuming that he is indeed first in) to setup for the next day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Meebo Smeebo

I've been looking at ways to use chat from a computer that does not have full InterWeb access. This a.m. I looked at Meebo, which at first looked pretty neat. Unfortunately it constantly loses it's network connectivity. Try it and see if it works for you; Walt Mossberg's page has a bit on it and the author seemed to like the service, so it could be that it was just having problems when I tried it.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Cop car cut out

I guess if it works and saves budget moneys...

I also like this Harley ad.

Dream date? And crazy Japanese gameshows

Hot or Not?

So I'm reading an article from BoingBoing on Facebook applications. It listed a site that I was familiar with several years ago started by a couple of guys in their living room (and may have had more revenue than the well-funded startup that I worked for). I've not kept up with them, but they're an example of how difficult it is to create a site that, while popular and maintaining high levels of traffic, actually generates revenue.

Then there's those wacky Japanese games shows (from Jame's blog). If you don't speak Japanese let me translate for you: "Crazy dudes get pawned"

Monday, October 1, 2007

Imelda Was Here?

A picture says it all:

Slowly over time I've pretty much brought all my shoes to my office. I bring a pair when I ride the motorcycle to change from the boots, and forget to take them home. I'm going to be Shoeless Joe @home soon.

It's going to get interesting when it gets colder and I start wearing the leather pants in the mornings...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Beware the carpet sniper

I'm not sure what's more dangerous - how ugly the carpet is, or that it's jumping up to "sniper" passersby...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

iPhone Update (not)

The blogosphereama is all a buzz with news of the new iPhone software update 1.1.1 - so, adventurous as I am I just checked: no update available. It's saying that 1.0.2 is the current version. Interesting. Guess things take longer to get across the InterWeb to the South.

Update (in the update): I got to thinking...I updated iTunes to the latest 7.4.2 (which blocks the hack allowing any song to be installed as a ringtone for free) and voila! the 1.1.1 update magically appeared. Ah, and people got irate at Microsoft for their forceful marketing tactics...

Update: iBrick...stay tuned

Update: Well, the iBrick was restored and the 1.1.1 firmware is on it now. Everything else appears to be correctly restored except photos. The iTunes setting to synchronize photos was unchecked for some reason so none of my pictures were on the phone. Now I have a "Last Roll" and "Camera Roll" (Previously only a single category).

They've changed the icon for charging - looks like a plug now. Much better. The iTunes for WiFi is very quick - optimized for revenue, I'd say...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

iPhone task list

A terrible oversight on the iPhone is the lack of a usable task list. Between the useless calendar and no task list the iPhone - as a organizer - is less worthless. I miss, quite frankly, the Treo for that. There is no way to synchronize (that I've found yet) between the iPhone and Outlook, for example.

I've been playing with web-based task list sites. Most that I've found are simply too slow when loading on Edge, and difficult to use in the browser even after loaded. One that I've used and like is from BaseCamp, and though it loads nicely on the iPhone it is quite slow and not formatted for the screen.

One that I've found that us very nice and productive, and has been designed specifically for the iPhone, is VitaList. They have a special URL for the iPhone: .

The "system" that it follows is the found in the Getting Things Done (GTD) book - which I have but still haven't gotten around to actually reading (it's one of the oldest ignored items my task list). But the approach is straightforward and doesn't require following some complicated method of personal organization. When used in conjunction with the desktop version of the site it is quite powerful. Projects and contexts can be easily setup and used on the iPhone.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

New Apple Store Opening

I still remember hearing about the first Apple store opening in New York I think. People said they were crazy. Yup, like a fox. In this area there are stores, now, at Lennox, Northpoint, Perimeter malls and now the Mall of Georgia.

The Mall of Georgia is the latest sighting of the seemingly unstopable incursion of Steve Job's band of artistic nerds. They are giving away T-shirts to the first 1000 people; I'm seriously
wondering if there might be that many in the line in front of me. The Northpoint community church drummer in the line with me thinks its close...

Update: We were about 350th or so. At the opening there were about 500 people in line. The store is really nice - a bit bigger than Northpoint and laid out nicely.

They have people in the store that must specialize on store openings. We spoke with one man who was walking the lines answering questions - this was his 5th store opening. They really have it down, and the hype machine turned up. On the opening their announcement brought resounding cheers from the employees and those of us in the line. Lots of energy; lots of true Believers.

Blake and I were able to get shirts; his is just a little large for him, but he wore it proudly. Ah, another generation of cult membership.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ghost Recon sux

GRAW - Ghost Recon Advanced Warfare 2 - is probably one of the worst games I've played in a long time. Either it's insanely too easy or just the opposite. Your squad is dumb and worthless, and the controls are nothing like the previous franchise. I'm pretty disappointed in the game especially since I paid for the darn thing.

I love the crap your squad says: "Captain, I'm taking fire." and they'll just sit there and get blown apart. Nice. I liked how you could switch and play one of the other characters in the first GR. Not in this one, though... Dumb game play, dumb engine, poor design. Survey says? Splat.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

WSJ: Superbike riders die

Yup. That's true. Give a guy 160 hp with a 500 lb bike, no training and a double digit IQ and there's bound to be problems: (Quote below - link is inside paid subscription)
Superbike riders suffer much higher death rates than riders of other kinds of bikes...

In 2005, riders 40 or older accounted for 47% of motorcycle fatalities, compared with 24% 10 years earlier. In the same period, the fatality percentage for riders younger than 30 years of age fell to 32% from 41%. Safety officials attribute this in part to a tendency of "returning" riders to overestimate their ability to handle the latest powerful bikes. "

You have a lot of people saying, 'I'm in my 40s and I want to start riding motorcycles again,'" says Daniel Lonsdorf, director of the Wisconsin Bureau of Transportation Safety. "But these aren't the same motorcycles they remember from 20 years ago."

Ah, but that new 'Busa is a bad motor scooter...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Housing market prices

How accurate this chart is I have no way of determining; if it were a roller coaster this is just about the point where the car plummets amid screams and squeals of joy. The screams are people who 100% financed there $600K house on $100K annual salary. The squeals of joy are the vultures that must be savoring the impending feast.

Then again, what is it they say about stats again?

Friday, September 14, 2007

AirTran - Vent of the day: Charge for seat?

Some of my family is getting together in Phoenix for a 50th anniversary (woohoo!) In researching flights - always a frustrating endeavor - I finally decided to fly AirTran since they had the cheapest flight. The most surprising thing? They charge for seat assignments. That's right - if I use their website to choose my own seat I pay $5 for coach or $15 for an exit row. Sounds like extortion to me, since if you don't choose your seat you get the dredges of the plane. Personally, I've flown AirTran only a handful of times, and have always hated it (I'm a Delta flier).

The funniest part of this story has to be the comment by Blake (my 8 year old son): He told me that he hated to be mean or anything, but he doubted that anyone would pay attention to me writing about buying a ticket on the web...too true, too true :)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My iPhone got run over by a truck

Monster truck (driven by Rich) verses iPhone...Sad, sad day.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Software and Shoe Repair

Never underestimate the resources available in your average software shop. I keep my older walking shoes here at work and they were starting to come apart at the soles.

Me: Where's that Gorilla Glue?
Grant: Right there...(points to desk full of too much stuff including a large, but expired 30spf sunblock)
Me: Where?
Grant: There!
Me: Ah
Grant: You're gonna need a clamp.
Me: I can just put something on it.
Grant: (points to clamps)

Yup. I went to the right office...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Maybe she should have flown Hooters Air...

Gimme a break (CNN video). This girl was escorted off a Southwest Airline plane because her clothing was too revealing. First, she looks less revealing than the average teen one sees wandering most malls today. Second, why'd they even let her on the plane in the first place if they had a problem with her outfit. Third (um), is this really the job of a darn airline?

I say she should sue, not because she deserves a payout but because they deserve a whoopin'. Boo. Hiss. Come on...! Southwest, you owe her, and America, an apology.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Steve continues to establish iPhone's world domination

Imagine my surprise, as a recent iPhone convert, in reading in the Wall Street Journal online that Apple has announced a dramatic $200 price drop. Imagine my delight at their announcement of a $100 credit for us early adopters ($200 for those who bought within the past 14 days - since these all could simply return the phone).

As observed by my friend Jeff, the price drop is a good move in that it preserves and even builds more good will and repositions itself into a price bracket for the next wave of adopters who've balked at the steep price, but who wanted the phone. I am curious, however, at the early drop in price. I'm wondering if this signals that there was less early adoption than predicted given the slower-than-expected sales.

Some have expressed anger at the drop in price. (Nokia attempted to capitalize on perceived frustration with a Google ad campaign. yawn.) I don't understand this at all. When I made the decision to buy I fully understood the price - and knew that there would come a time in the very near future when Apple would announce a new, bigger, better version. A price drop was surprising since Apple generally preserves price points while offering more at the same price. Their strategy must be working...check out the 5 year chart. I'd hate to ride a bike up that mountain slope :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Lego man

Following the crowd and supporting viral's my lego personae.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I hope my tax money didn't pay for this study

I worked with a friend that loved to respond to patently obvious statements: "Well, that falls squarely in the No Sh*t category". This study is the poster child. Good grief...

Nature is not politically correct

Ah the serenity of a day in nature. The natural world, it seems, hasn't gotten the memo that we should all play nice on the playground, and that vegetarianism is desirable. User discretion advised...and it doesn't end like you'd think.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Monday, August 20, 2007

Photoset from Germany

I've uploaded the pictures from the Germany trip. Dumb flickr has a 200 picture limit, but I think all the recent trip pictures are still visible. Note that most of the pictures were taken with my iPhone.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Back in germany

I enjoyed seeing Paris, truly I did. Yet I left early to return to Germany. I simply enjoyed Germany more. I'm back in Frankfurt now and have enjoyed wandering around the city. This town certainly has the buildings. It reminds me a lot of wandering around the business district of San Francisco. Lots of tall and new buildings. Lots of glass. Hope they don't get an earthquake here anytime soon.

Paris was good. I saw Le Louvre and Mona - she was the main attraction, yet there were far superior paintings in my humble (and totally uneducated) opinion. What wasinteresting was to see how may people were packed in front of her. Of all the exhibits she drew the most.

I also wandered around the streets and stopped at shops. The coffee was great and though there were rude and impatient people (like most of the drivers) I found the people charming. The waiter at one of the shops moved so quick I hardly saw him. I asked for a coffee and he was gone before I could ask for a menu. He dropped my coffee off while I was looking the other way and was gone by the time I tuned. A minute later I was wondering if I would need to hunt him down to pay and turned and my bill was sitting on the table - when he came with it I don't know. He didn't bring it with the coffee. It reminded me of the butler in that Garfield movie (woosh).

I'll upload pictures later. The iPhone won't work (for some reason) with the wireless in this cafe. Oh, and speaking of iPhone: if you travel by train from Paris to Germany - be sure to turn off and back on your phone. It won't automatically find the new carrier...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Webkinz are fun

My son jumped on the Webkinz bandwagon. Actually, I finally bought him one after trying to keep him away after having other parents tell me it was like crack for their kids. As a one-time EverQuest II player, I totally understand.

I also have my own webkinz per Blake's request. Actually, it's a neat environment. Here's my room so far:
We've planted gardens: Blake has harvested his tomatoes:

Froggie's gonna be eating some nice juicy tomatoes. That's "Puggie" next to him.

My garden's coming along too. I already harvested a Pumpkin but didn't capture a pic.

It's a pretty neat business idea. Take a 50 cent stuffed animal, partner with a software environment and sell the animal for $12-14. The software is all flash and mostly pretty simple, but neatly designed for kids. It's safe since there is no possibility of free-form chat communications. (I guess they had it initially but have closed that area.) It crashes sometimes and Blake has a plant floating in space and can't move it. But over all, pretty neat. It's sort of a Second Life type of environment, but on a much smaller scale.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It's all good...wasn't it?

I had lunch recently with a a former co-worker. Nice guy. We used to have laughs and (as I recall) he was a pretty good developer. He's on the hunt for a new gig these days, hoping to capitalize on the hot job market. (Too bad he wasn't a Java developer - I get a lot of those emails.)

Trouble is, he's got this dark cloud following him around. I had forgotten that about him, and was reminded that he wasn't only a "half empty" sort, but that he seemed to be hooked on bitching about the company he worked for. Even after we left our company (they went under) he bitched about it, and about the new one he worked for. The market was bad back then, so he hated that he had to work for a company that didn't really match his tastes. "Leave" I'd say. Can't he'd say. I think he just liked that there was so much to complain about.

That got me thinking about the places that I've worked since landing here in Atlanta some 9 years ago. Most are out of business, which is why we left. Most had a pretty good idea, and some really great people. The business world is just like that. Timing is everything. Marketing has got to be superb. Your product has to reach right to where your target market itches. Luck helps too. They were pretty good companies, and most of them were a lot of fun. Sure, we worked major hours at most since they were startups, but I loved the rush of trying to beat the challenge; to rush trying to do the impossible. Did we fail? Naw - we just ran out of money usually. Like Vince Lombardi - never lost, just ran out of time every now and again.

Maybe this is like the romantic memories of former lovers. We forget about the little things that annoyed us and remember the good times. "Why'd I ever break up with her?" Well, there were good reasons, but mostly we remember the good times.

I remember the late night discussions over a white board nurturing a cup of coffee. I remember the debates over the best approach to solving a problem. I remember the ping pong games, the softball leagues (dead last, generally), and the rollerblading. I remember the Unreal Tournament sessions, blowing your friend's head off. I remember the euphoria when we accomplished what "they" said was impossible.

I feel sorry for my friend. It's much more fun to remember just the good and forget all the dull stuff. Selective memory really comes in handy in this case. How will we remember our current company? There's bound to be problems; but gather up the great things and turn your perspective to how you'll remember it 5 or 10 years from now, and it'll be a pretty good time. Hopefully we won't go out of business. Hopefully we'll actually accomplish the impossible. Hopefully I'll forget the little things that trip up some days. It's all good...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Java in 2007

As one of the first wave of neophytes - some would say acolytes - to tinker with Java it has a special place in my heart. It was the first language in modern times to incorporate some of the academic purity of Smalltalk in a pragmatic and useful way while retaining much of the syntax and approach of the familiar C++. It was/is a managed platform an as such operated as a sort of proving ground to the concept leading to .Net. For those first 5 years or so I grew to enjoy the language and see it perform wonderfully.

Unfortunately, the initial exuberance that led to cool applets and later to incomprehensible user interfaces wore off for many people as they started to realize that "write once" only meant once if you never intended A) any user interface code, and B) to run on a single platform. Portability was only marginally better than C/C++. However, as the months and years passed and with the introduction of 1.1 Java started to become a usable and productive platform.

I've spent the last several years mostly doing C#.Net (and still feel like I've had a 3 year affair with the houselady) and over the past several months wandered back into the Java fray. I've missed the much more "purist" and eclectic mentality of the Java development world. In C# you are playing in Microsoft's playground. While the Sun's and Weblogic's of the world have become the several hundred pound gorilla's in the Java world, they still do not have the leverage given the well-organized projects such as Apache, Eclipse and others. There is just too much freely available code for any one company to bully developers like Microsoft can (can you say Team Foundation Services and what happened to us smaller MSDN Universal subscribers?)

Speaking of well run projects I'm very impressed with Hibernate, Spring and JSF. These have leveraged well thought-out software techniques and have really put together productive and reliable platforms. While I had used Struts, I like the approaches Spring and JSF take much better. And Inversion of Control - why wasn't everyone developing in that way (many of us were).

I'm pleased and nostalgic with Java. Unfortunately my current employer (no offense if they're reading this) still has a mountain of C++ spaghetti, ASP and COM to endure. I fear that too many Microsoft based projects have simply not nurtured an appreciation for the development and design methodologies that have taken firm root in the Java world. Certainly they have not had the benefit of a wide variety of choices when considering how to solve the many common problems that arise in laying out a software architecture.

Java in 2007? Looking good. Looking good.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mamma says...

Wonderful insights can be had simply by recounting an experience to someone with a pleasant sense of humor and terrific memory for movie lines. I'm convinced that all life lessons can be illustrated by some movie line. If it's been thought, there's probably a line in a movie that said it.

I was sharing how I felt my first couple of years in a public university after having been brought up in Seventh-day Adventist schools all my life. Schools, church, and home - that was where I learned about life and all that is. Enter real-world stage right and my perceptions of what is true is constantly in conflict with a world never was. I signed up for Anthropology 101 because everyone said it was as easy A. The first class brings the subject of an old Earth and evolution and I'm at the registrars office that afternoon dropping the class and switching to Biology 101 instead (a much harder class, that also talked about evolution...). Never mind all my misconceptions about religion and other denominations.

As my friend listened he started laughing and said that it sounded like...well, you'll see:

Friday, May 4, 2007

2007 Hooters Calendar

Alright, I'm a guy and some things are just natural. 2007 Hooters Calendar.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Southern Fried Tech

I just like the name: Southern Fried Tech. It's one of those names that makes you smack your forehead with a "why didn't I think of that?" The stated purpose from the website is:
The purpose of Southern Fried Tech is to increase the size and the strength of the technology and new media community in the Southeastern United States.
I certainly applaud any efforts to build up the technology community in Atlanta. This town seems dominated by larger, more established shops that consume the greater portion of the talent. If my friends have it right, much of that talent is being wasted on projects that are not exactly cultural tsunamis. (Better billing system for Verizon? Yawn.)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

iPod observations

All I wanted to do was be able to toss files onto my iPod both from the iMac at home and occasionally from my Windows XP computer at the office. Sometimes I stumble onto a podcast that I'd like to listen to on the drive home (especially useful when GA 400 is so slow that I listen to all the content on the morning commute). In those cases I want to drop the podcast onto the iPod Shuffle from my work computer.

Sounds simple, right? Wrong. I stop by the Apple store here in Alpharetta and ask the nice lady if they have another docking station. Sure, no problem. She inquires what I'm doing and informs me that it can't be done. Yes, I should be able to synch with two computers by clicking "Cancel" to the question to delete the content and synch with the new computer. (It seems that any time you drop the iPod into another computer, or user account on the iMac, it wants to delete all the content to synchronize with the new computer. Dumb.) But, she informs me that the software on the iPod Shuffle will only be compatible with the Mac, or with Windows since each loads a specific version that only works with that operating system. I protest that it doesn't sound right, she assures me that she's right and I'm dumb - at least that's how it came out to me.

Turns out, she was wrong on both counts (doh!). You can not simply click 'Cancel' and manually copy files to the iPod from another Mac account/computer. If you click cancel the device simply is not present. Strike 1. Also turns out (however) that if you go ahead and delete files the device appears correctly and you can copy files to it just fine - after it's deleted all your current content.

For my little Shuffle that simply holds transient content for my commute this is fine. But what if I had a bazillion gig video iPod with built in microwave oven? I'd have to zap all my millions of files to use the other computer. Dumbx2.

I've been wanting to step up to a larger device - I seriously doubt it will be an iPod. I'm not gonna do Zune, but will look at the other Media Player-style players. Come on folks, this is 2007. We have multiple computers. Desktops, laptops, work computers and we travel. Sometimes we may want to drop files onto our players from different places. Screw your DRM and your control. I'd like a little control over the expensive devices that I buy. Stop limiting where I can jack in and download content and I'll stop bitching about your "features" and start buying more of your product.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cool (and well designed) workplaces

Those close to me know that I seriously hate most workplaces that I've seen. They are boxy and boring, and absolutely contrary to producing creative thought. I guess either there are not many cool and creative environments in Atlanta, or I'm just not cool enough for them. I spent my twenties living in the Bay Area in California, and even in the 80's there had emerged creative approaches to designing work environments (if not a bit goofy as well). The parent company to the Star printers had an office with a pond in the center; the cafeteria and lunch area was on an island in the middle of it. All through the office area was trees, the roof could open to allow natural cooling and circulation, and none of the cubicles were aligned perpendicular to the building; most were at 45degree angles (which did make navigation tricky for newbies).

Here in the Atlanta area stuffy and conventional appear are enthroned. There are the random exceptions but mostly corporate boxes reign. Alexander Kjerulf has drafted a blog posting he calls "10 seeeeeriously cool workplaces". Flip over to his post 12 Ways to Pimp Your Office for some interesting approaches to styling your working environment. I actually really liked the flexible walls. All this reminds me of the graphic designers we had in a previous life at a dotcom portal company (RIP). These guys went so far as to create doors and roofs for their cubicles. Least you think this was silly schoolboy attempts at "pimping" their ride to impress the ladies, I believe it was a serious attempt to control the light and the noise and to deal with the difficulties of sharing the maze with the noisy software developer mice. (Oh how we loved to put slobbery thumb-prints on their monitors...just drives those graphics guys crazy!)

Speaking of software developers, I also like Alex's post How NOT to lead geeks. He's definitely got insight.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Flixster should be called Fraudster?

I was invited by a highschool friend to check out Flixster, a service that is designed around the MySpace idea and attempts to take viral marketing to new levels. I took a movie survey and in doing created an account. It then asked me other questions and clearly it was setting up my account preferences. After choosing avatar, skin and adding a few favorite movies I was a user of Flixster. Great (yawn).

The environment is pretty cool - massive movie database though the pages get pretty busy (like MySpace). The policies are not. The biggest RED FLAG was when they asked me for my gmail password. WTF? Um, no. You can't have my private email password.

The second really weird thing is that I never went back after that initial look-see, and I keep getting emails that say so-and-so user has accepted your friend invitation. WTFx2? I go back today and sure enough I have 5 new friends - friends who I never invited, don't know, and who I suspect might even not be real. (Can you say using the wonders of computer automation to make your new service look more active than it really is?)

Maybe they're just really aggressive. Maybe they've got a bug or "feature" that automatically adds a friend even if you don't. But it's these types of aggressive policies that quickly turns users off.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs Meeting

I finally got to one of the Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs (AWE?) meetings tonight. I've been on the group list but missed the first couple of meetings. It was fun and nice to see and hear various perspectives on Atlanta's (sad) entrepreneur environment.

The highlight of the night was the presentation from the founder of Paperback Swap. For a guy of 24 he has experience and wisdom well beyond his years. He presented their server farm structure and composition - what was neat is he started with the single server up to the farm they now have and showed the progressions and spoke about some of the challenges they had. Nice view from the trenches.

I'm not sure what it would take for Atlanta to spawn more startups. I arrived in Atlanta in '97 full of enthusiasm for the burgeoning Internet market. I spent many years working with startup companies, logging long hours helping to build a dream - and learning tons in the process. In the end they either flat out went bust or flamed out gradually. Unfortunately, much of what we learned didn't translate well into the enterprise computing environment. The fact that my search engine handled 300K searches each day, or that our website would do 1.5 million page views means very little in answer to a question, "so, how strong are you with J2EE?" (yawn)

From my perspective those years have not helped me to be employable in Atlanta, but rather have hurt: I'm always asked why I didn't stay long at these companies, but my answer that they were startups doesn't seem to satisfy. I think for Atlanta to be more startup friendly it needs a massive realignment of their mentality and attitudes toward people who participate. I have developer friends who will never work in a startup again because of the fallout of the web era. This is not good for Atlanta, and means we remain a town with big, boring corporate powerhouses that mostly want the more mindless and compliant drones. It means that Silicon Valley with Stanford, Berkley and Sand Hill continues to attract the best and brightest.

Ok, there: I can hop off my soapbox now... (puts back his pleasant hat)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Time for Timing Problems

So, my theory was that since my computer - which does not receive Microsoft's automatic updates which have caused horrendous problems in the past -- since it was synchronizing time with a NIST timeserver would be set correctly this morning after our mini-Y2K disaster. Nope. In fact, I manually tried to "Update Now" with several (like 8) different timeservers and all of them reported back with the wrong time. 8:32 rather than the correct 9:32.

One of my servers (a really old one) that is running Windows 2003 has the correct time (inexplicably) while the other server (the newer rack-mounted one) also running Windows 2003 is wrong. My Linux box running my Wiki is correct.

My wall clock which is radio corrected is happy and correct this morning also.

Update: after applying Microsoft's magical fix in their update the time jumped ahead an hour. So, I had manually set it correct so now it was an hour too far ahead. No problem, I set it back. Then I went to update time with a time server and now for some strange reason it continues to fail. "An error occurred while Windows was synchronizing with x". Interesting...

So let's summarize the logic of this "fix" by Microsoft:
  1. Update the system time ahead 1 hour
  2. Disable synchronization with those evil time servers which probably will be wrong
  3. um, i guess that's all we need?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Java verses Javascript

So, I've been playing a lot with Javascript lately. I'm reminded just how versatile the language is. It's pretty neat to declaratively add a new element to some "class" or function.

I keep stumbling onto pages where the author dribbles on about how Javascript is more powerful than Java, etc. The sense I get is that they feel that Javascript is the more evolved and more suitable -- trash all that Java. Junkyard all that C#. Javascript to the rescue.

It sort of reminds me of the VB proponents a few years back, waving their flag in the face of we Java and C++ people. Bla. Give me a break. Right tool for the right job. In fact VB was very powerful and productive for developing "RAD" applications. Great for that departmental application that just had to work and be delivered quickly. Lousy for shipping that product to 10,000 customers; lousy for squeaking the last ounce of performance out of the CPU.

In fact Javascript is powerful and very flexible. But it is its flexibility that really damages productivity for larger projects. Refactoring sux. Debugging too often uncovers a typo. Live production too often turns up the simple logic error. Let's not mention the incompatibility between browser implementations of the DOM or Javascript.

The truth is, if the browsers supported a better implementation for developing AJAX applications in Java life would certainly be better. Static checking, better refactoring, and better software engineering controls. Maybe this is why I like Google Web Toolkit. It allows the developer to write the application in Java, test it in Java, then generate the final HTML/Javascript (which naturally must also be tested independently). And for the macho uber developers who (like some of us seasoned veterans) really like to stick to old-school development style, they can use the JSNI interface to interact with their own pure-Javascript creations. The latter sounds like those of us who used to insist that we needed to embed ASM into our C++ for performance and control. Geez: I don't miss those days...

Friday, March 2, 2007

Debt Elimination Scams

I was shocked recently at a comment by who I considered an intelligent and balanced individual. They asked me if I had heard of the legal ways to eliminate heavy debt loads - not pay off, but fully eliminate through legal loopholes. Ouch! First, even if this were legal and an available option I would protest it on moral grounds. When we've received goods and services and paid for it out of our future earnings we entered into a contractual obligation to pay for what we've received. End of story.

The truth is, however, that there is truly no free lunch - at least in this context. In response I dug up a link that I had seen where the Federal Reserve had warned people about this sort of scam. It is just that: a scam. Don't fall for it and for Pete's sake, don't shell out hard-earned coin to receive secret knowledge and documents that will allow you to do something that is unconscionable even if it were legal.

See also:

Monday, February 26, 2007

New YUI 2.2.0 DataTable control

I've decided to replace Jack Slocum's excellent grid with Yahoo's YUI 2.2.0 DataTable control. This because, though Jack's library is excellent there are - for me - 3 problems currently:
  1. In transition and pre-release. Jack is about to release a 1.0 that is expanded
  2. Performance impact. The library, though well designed, is rather large due to the features. The grid, for example, generates a full-featured div to create a very nice control. But each column header is a full table (for example).
  3. Lack of control over look.
As a library for an enterprise application the choice is clear: Jack has about the best library available, and it is free. As a foundation for a web application that required quick rendering and full control over the look and feel, however, it is much more involved.

Turning our attention, then, to the YUI controls: Part of the YUI library is quite mature and works very well. They have recently added several that are released in beta.
  • They are small and quick to render
  • The DataTable is based on a normal and fully defined HTML table
  • They have multiple bugs and incomplete code
  • The interface design is immature. For example, some methods require an integer index as a parameter to a row, but there is no way to actually get that index.
I've added something like 7 bug reports into their tracking system. But overall I'm pleased with the controls. They render very quickly. My pages are loading and rendering much quicker than with the "Ext" library. But at every step I had to either overload one of their methods or write helper methods, and have had to fill in some of the blanks where either they forgot something (creating the rowUpdateEvent for example) or simply have not supplied a required feature.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Log4Net stopped working - fixed

If you are using log4net, as I am, you may at some point bumped into the same frustration that I endured. I've been using log4X for years, starting with log4j, log4cpp and have used log4net for the past several years, but mostly in standalone .net server apps.

Recently I've started using log4net in a web application, and it worked fine...for awhile. Then it stopped. The problem? I put logging into a classes in a separate project, a projected that encapsulates all my business components and data access layer. Poof! it stopped working. The solution was simple. The AssemblyInfo.cs file in the other project also needed the following line:

[assembly: log4net.Config.XmlConfigurator()]

After putting that in all was well with the world. My UDP collector magically started seeing trace messages and I went about trying to glue back in the hair I'd just violently yanked out. Ah, the life of a developer.

New (beta) music service

I'm really not sure how this new venture is going to avoid the wrath of the RIAA and become the latest "Napster" casualty. But in the meantime, SeeqPod Music is way cool. They are spidering blogs to find published links to mp3 files and organizing a massive index to them. That, complete with a player and playlists make it a pretty useful tool.

They still have some pretty serious bugs, at least ones that appear in my Firefox browser. For example, when dragging items around in the playlist they drop into the wrong place. But for finding that old, hard to find song that you really just want to hear once and are not about to drop 99cents on iTunes to hear, this is the way to go.

Of course, the RIAA may just use it also as a massive index for their next wave of public lawsuits...

Web 2.0 Video

Really, it should be called "World 2.0" since in describing Web 2.0 it really is indicating how our world has changed with the Internet and the new applications that have emerged on it. This was produced at Kansas State University at "Digital Ethnography". It's a pretty sweet example of the sort of creativity I envy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

School portal - no Firefox support? Huh?

Rant: I guess when you write software and design web applications for a living you can tend toward the over critical when evaluating a website. That's what happened to me recently when the school that my son attends released a new student "portal". It's written in ASP.Net and the authors used VB as the language. Interestingly enough, the site is not exactly fancy but doesn't support Firefox.

What? Let's see, this is 2007 and there is an ever growing population of Firefox users and an ever growing understanding of how to write sites to support multiple browsers gracefully. Sure we all make a mistake occasionally and some feature may not work on every browser, and may not degrade gracefully. But when your simple menu's won't work in Firefox, that's just lazy and careless. (Sort of like how they emailed everyone's password -- to everyone. oh well...)

This is sort of like Walmart's recent decision not to support Firefox -- or any browser except Internet Exploder. What of those of us who refuse to use it because of the many security concerns? Well, I hadn't intended to use Walmart's awful service anyway.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Do you Yahoo?

I was just talking to a friend about the "good 'ole days" of the Internet. Yes friends, it's been around long enough that there are those who remember how it used to be. There was a time when the concept of embedding an image of any sort into the stream of text that one normally got on gopher was something to stand in awe of. Remember Mosaic?

There also was a time when the Yahoo homepage loaded faster - or would have if we weren't connected over 9600 baud dial up modems, if you were lucky. 2400 baud if not. Crap. Now I sound like my Dad and uncles when they used to muse about the good ole days when men were men and cars were too darn hard for women to own. Ah, yes... whatever.

Anyway, take a look at Yahoo's page circa 1996 (I remember it earlier, but Wayback doesn't have earlier) Or for a real laugh, take a gander at my first Internet company. Ah, I could have been one of those wanna-be DotCom millionaires who are now serving coffee at Starbucks (sonny...).

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Proof positive...

Here is proof positive (lest we actually needed it) that some people definitely have too much time on there hands...God bless 'em for it too.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Flame Warriors

Every now and again you stumble onto a site that you figure everyone else must already know about since it's so kewl. This site, Flame Warriors, is such a site. The proprietor, an illustrator, has captured caricatures of the various types of personalities that make up the swamp we call a forum or discussion group.

See if you can find yourself in there...

Firefox - honeymoon over?

This 2.0 version is really ticking me off. I've been using Firefox since it first came out, and was using Mozilla before that (and Netscape before that). But this 2.0 is the worst version yet. True, they've made it a bit fancier and I like the tab enhancements. I love that new windows can be configured to open in a new tab by default. I hate that it seems to crash hourly. When you use a browser as much as I do (as a developer) crashes get very annoying.

This new version has crashed, on estimated average, about 5 times a day now. The previous version crashed about never. At first I thought it might be caused by Firebug (it may), but I was running Firebug previously with no troubles. Oh well, still beats I.E., 7...

Oh, and why does Blogger's spell checker flag "Firefox" as a misspelled word, but not Firebug? Hmmm. Guess the honeymoon really is over.

Firefox - honeymoon over?

This 2.0 version is really ticking me off. I've been using Firefox since it first came out, and was using Mozilla before that (and Netscape before that). But this 2.0 is the worst version yet. True, they've made it a bit fancier and I like the tab enhancements. I love that new windows can be configured to open in a new tab by default. I hate that it seems to crash hourly. When you use a browser as much as I do (as a developer) crashes get very annoying.

This new version has crashed, on estimated average, about 5 times a day now. The previous version crashed about never. At first I thought it might be caused by Firebug (it may), but I was running Firebug previously with no troubles. Oh well, still beats I.E., 7...

Oh, and why does Blogger's spell checker flag "Firefox" as a misspelled word, but not Firebug? Hmmm. Guess the honeymoon really is over.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Software's 10 Commandments

I'd say this guy Joe's just about got it right on. He's summarized "Joe's ten rules of commercial software development". How many startups did I endure before these started to become obvious. I'm sure you may have a couple of additions; I know I do. For example: "Methodology is never a substitute for damn good people", and "No, we can't do it cheaper in India".

Yeah! Electric Cars (again? soon?)

For a person who considers himself a "conservative" I sure have some decidedly liberal views. Tale for example my enthusiasm about cars like the Prius and even the Honda Civic and Toyota Yaris, that gets terrific gas mileage. It just seems unsustainable to depend on a fuel that is, well, unsustainable.

I find this article encouraging, if indeed true. A Texas company has achieved a breakthrough in electric storage for autos through their capacitor approach. Capacitors are the little device that is charged quickly in your flash camera, and send a jolt to the flash tube thus blinding your children and capturing red-eyed devils for grandma's enjoyment.

It will be interesting to watch this unfold. It is revolutionary, and potentially a landscape shifting technology, if it is not bought and buried by a threatened corporation. (See Who killed the electric car for a decidedly liberal, yet interesting analysis of the demise of the EV1.) We're smart, just not too focused on this problem as a society: we can break our dependence on oil and we can transform our power-consumption lifestyle. But this does bring up a good question: is it ethical and wise to cut down my trees so I can use solar panels? Hmmm.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Who's this guy anyway?

Well, after upgrading and modifying the template for this blog a bit it doesn't look tooo bad. It'll work. Cheaper than subscribing to typepad.

So who the heck am I? Well, for starters I've been developing software in some form since 1979, when my highschool purchased one of those new, fancy TRS-80 computers. That was such a smashing success they also bought a couple of Apple II's. BASICally, that started my programming career. Through college I made beer (er, rootbeer) money by developing spreadsheets and databases in Lotus 123 and dBase II and III (ah, Ashton Tate, we miss you...sort of.) As I became more and more proficient in dBase III I found that the larger systems I was developing often suffered from performance problems - both from design and simply due to overreaching the capacity and intent of dBaseIII. Enter 'C' - fast and dangerous. Just how I liked it.

Over the years I've developed extensively in C, C++, Java (a love affair matched only by my espresso machine) and C# (a warm spot in my heart too). Over the past 8 years here in Atlanta I've written IMAP, SMTP and fax servers for a unified messaging startup (RIP), wrote a very fine meta-search engine for another startup, DotPlanet (RIP) along with news spiders, stock quoting feed, portfolio account aggregation website (etc.). After DotPlanet went the path of the dodo bird I landed at another startup in the telecommunications industry - a fiber optic equipment provider. I led the team that wrote their EMS (element management system), an all Java endeavor.

For the past several years I've been consulting for McKesson, rewriting and redesigning software. For them it's been PDA applications in C#.Net using webservices to talk to a gSoap and standard IIS webservices server. Also a C# application server to translate from the diverse messages of their customers into their diverse robotic and automation back end systems. That was fun. Lots of XML and even wrote them a portable VB Scripting engine to embed that ran on Windows and Linux (under mono).

Presently I'm working on a personal finance web application, designed to help people who are seriously in debt and serious about being debt free. Tune into our friend Dave Ramsey for an insight into the massive problem our country finds itself in. Naturally, that means that lately I've been knee deep in Web 2.0 - CSS, Javascript, browser incompatibilities, etc. Hopefully I'll be able to post up some links to websites and resources that have helped.

So, let's see:
  • C/C++ (and ASM, back in the day)
  • Java
  • C#
  • Spattering of Perl, PHP and other scripting languages
  • Java
  • web application servers including CGI, Java JSP, servlets, IIS/ISAPI, ASP, ASP.Net
If it's starting to sound like a sales pitch...isn't it always? :)

On a personal note, check out my theology blog. I'm a former Seventh-day Adventist (a category of person SDA's hold lower than Wicca) and served for a time in pastoral ministry. In a nutshell, I studied my way right through the church like an arrow through a target. Having grown up in the church it made sense until I looked deeper and more honestly.

New Blog, First Post

Since there always has to be a first post, this might as well be it. First, however, let me apologize for the potentially hideous layout and look of this blog. Blogger may have worked wonders with the tools they provide -- and all for free -- but they still don't have what I'd consider a good set of clean, professional templates. Guess it's time to modify.

Well, on with the show. Now if I can only come up with something pithy to blog about...