Thursday, December 11, 2008

dinner with the kids


Jen is a vegetarian and when she goes out for night I like to make some old fashioned meatatarian dinner.

Last night I made chicken legs and thighs with baked potatoes and mixed vegetables. It turned out rather good. Soft potatoes. Juicy chicken rubbed in garlic and other herbs. Yummy.

With Amanda on the left and Jake on the right, I sat down...

"Blood, blood, blood" repeated over and over by Amanda while rubbing the red parts of the leg bone with her butter knife. Jake repeatedly insisting it's not blood while managing to simultaneously complain "cartilage, cartilage, cartilage" from Jake (he calls the tendons cartilage).

Jake - I've never seen so much cartilage. Usually its at the top and the bottom, not all over.

Me - Well I think all legs (showing him an example) have one side like that and another with more hard parts.

Jake - non, this is different, I swear.
Then there was the fighting back and forth.

Me - How was it at school today?

Amanda - I went on a field trip.

Me - wow, that must have been fun. Jake what did you do in gym today?

Jake - I played basketball.

Amanda (to Jake) - Did you go on a field trip?

Jake - No.

Amanda - repeats...

Jake - No!

Me - Amanda, it is not nice to ask over and over.

Amanda - Ok.

Amanda (to Jake) - You didn't go on a field trip, I did.

Me - Sigh.

At least the chicken was tasty.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Good OS

Good OS, gOS for short, is a Linux distribution with a friendly interface. I've used Ubuntu, on which gOS is based, and gOS adds onto and simplifies the standard Ubuntu distribution.

Many of the settings I had to hunt for and figure out are already the default settings in gOS. For instance the ability to snif out and connect to an open WiFi hotspot is turned on by default in gOS.


gOS also adds a Mac OSX-like dock interface for launching applications. This interface graphically represents all the applications (more or less) that you can use with the operating system. Here is an image of gOS showing the OS and the File browser.



For those not familiar with the icons on the doc, the first two are Firefox and Gmail. The last three are openoffic.org's Word, Excel, and Powerpoint compatible Office programs. The rest I leave to you to explore.

One feature, well behavior really, that I found very interesting was the way windows were minimized. Since there is a dock I assumed that windows would minimize to it. On a Mac it does. As a long time MS Windows user this behavior takes some getting used to. In gOS on the other hand, the minimized windows go to the task bar - just like in XP. Since this is a well understood paradigme I think kids and grandma will find it very intuitive to use.

Finally, in another tip-of-the-hat to Apple's Mac, Google's gadgets can be loaded "on the desktop." This feature closely mimics (rip's off?) OSX dashboard.

I only had a few minutes with this OS booted from CD rom. However, I was impressed. gOS says they have plans to launch an OS that boots "into a browser" to get you online as fast as possible. I'll be looking to try that when it becomes available. Afterall, browsing the web is what I do first 99% of the time when I sit down at a computer.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

compute requirements

I've read a lot about Vista and of course seen the Get a Mac commercials. I've been under the impression that Vista is not a great improvement over Windows XP in terms of resource requirements. That is it needs more graphics power, more cpu and memory bandwidth to perform the same tasks. Yikes.

I was checking out Gmail's new video chat service. They've done something very handy, linked a bunch of compatible discounted camera's.

The one I clicked on had an interesting tidbit of telling information about Vista vs. XP:

Windows XP
Pentium4 1.4 GHz or AMD Athlon 1 GHz processor
(Pentium 4 2.4 GHz recommended)
128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended
Windows Vista
Pentium 4 2.4 GHz (2.8 GHz recommended)
512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended)

Wow, 4 times the memory and twice the processor speed. Unbelievable confirmation, from Logitech at least, that Vista is slower than XP (on similar hardware).

Glad I bought a Mac this year instead of a Vista PC.

Monday, November 10, 2008

working out at the new gym

We've been in our new building just over a month now. It's very nice, and I like the window. A lot.

As promised I'm using the gym now.

Most surprising discovery? The 3-4 hour wakeful period that follows most workouts. I can be totally dragging going in, yawning throughout, but back at the desk I'm focused and awake. For a long while.

Am I getting stronger? Not sure. I have a pretty low bar. I wanted my back to feel better. Instead if feels about the same to worse. I guess I better do some research or see the man.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

my wife is smart

Jen writes about voting...

Here's what I'm thinking- of the last 7 presidencies, 5 have been republican, 2 Clinton. We've had an all Dem congress and an all GOP congress - we've had GOP across the board and evidently in the judicial as well. During Regan and Clinton we did well. During the others, ick. I also believe we need party balance in gov, but we haven't seen that with a GOP president either. They had amazing opportunities and they failed. They can't blame it on the Dems, for the Dems didn't always have a say.

The Markets did not work on their own, for humans need rules. Who was it who said, if men were good we wouldn't need government?

I can see your worry about what gov is taking from you, but even though it doesn't feel that way sometimes, you get a lot for your tax dollars and it's your choice to take advantage of it or not: roads- local and highway, road signs and lights, electricity (they're subsidized), emergency care, police, fire, military, national parks and forests, medicaid, social security, street cleaning, prisons, judges, courts, public record keeping, schools, colleges, fuel prices cheaper than the rest of the world, airports, college degrees, training for those who's parents sucked, teachers, principals, guidance counselors, social services for abused children, etc, etc, etc. It's there if we need it. Do I hate that we subsidize AT&T? yes. Do I hate that we subsidize corn? yes. do I hate that corporations can basically write laws to ensure their control over products and services? YES. But that's an issue related to funding elections and lobying. However, we've both benefited from lobyists, and they've been around since the mid 1800s. If we could solve that one, we'd make a lot of money on our book.

This does not mean we give up. This means we evaluate what's been going on and where we're going. But we have to feel like it's worth it, like something can actually happen. I feel like something may happen that I like. Instead of trying to prevent what I don't want to happen. Ie: obama will revoke international gag rules regarding family planning services funded in part by the US, that means a lot to me.

People are really motivated. Here in NC, we can vote early- over 1/3 of all registered voters have already voted. It's breaking all kinds of records. Folks here are very worried about getting people in and out on election day. I'm having conversations with all kinds of people and the energy is the same- unless they really wish they had a good GOP candidate, which they don't.

Figure out what is important to you, not 'everything' but something, and decide who would further that cause for you. If your concerns are too big, consider what you would like to see set up for Amanda and Jake [our kids] and vote for the one who would further that.

It's still a good country and it's better every year-

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

how ugly will it get?

With 14 days to go, I'm asking myself how ugly can it get. I've got an Obama sticker on my motorcycle. I park it inside at night and outside my window during the day at work. I'm worried it won't make it unscathed till Nov 4th.

Here in North Carolina some people voting early are getting an ear full from McCain/Palin supporters. Tires were slashed at an Obama rally. How ugly will it get? How much shameful behavior will we have to endure? The rest of the world will once again mock us as self-righteous hypocrites.

I'm pretty sure that if I were about to vote, having angry people shout mean nasty things about my candidate might just turn me off even more from their candidate.

I have to ask Roger Farina, what difference does it make if people vote on Sunday? Not planned? I can see your thinking - people are coming from an Obama rally directly to the polling place. Sounds like a scam? Not really. Not to me anyway. This has to have happened on most election days at some time in the past, a rally followed closely by voting.

I think I know - it’s the unspoken bit that speaks volumes. Many of the voters across the street from you are black, Obama is half black, McCains chances are looking slime and you don't like it. In any case, Roger, I expect better from a guy from New York, a guy who fought for voters in 2000.

Well you've got your right to be there, free speech and all, but at least have the guts to say what you really think.

Look, we've already had this fight. Let’s move on and stop worrying who is voting when. You had your vote, isn't that enough?

Friday, October 17, 2008

100 for dems

Yesterday I spent 2 hours in Kay Hagan's Raleigh office making phone calls to undecided voters. My mission: find out if they've decided and ask if I could answer any of their questions if not. I must have "dialed" 200 homes. About 100 actually picked up. 40 said hello. 20 said they'd talk to me. 12 were Kay Hagan and Barack Obama supporters, 5 wouldn't answer, and 2 were decidedlly not with the dems. 

Of these last two a couple things were intersting. The first guy, and both were males, said he just didn't think either we qualified. Fair enough I said, but do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president? He hung up on me.

 The second's first question: "are with acorn?" No I said. The conversation went downhill from there. In the end he hung up on me after proclaiming "you give them some wine and a dollar bill and they vote D all the way down the line."

Coincidentally, Jen just sent me a joke news article about illegal aliens (liberal democrates) sneeking into Canada. In it one of the punch lines was "They did have a nice little Napa Valley cabernet though". But I digress.

Truth be told, I had no idea that wine goes so well with democrats. It wasn't until later I realized by "them" he likely meant black folks. Yeah they are just drunken fools who sell their vote for a dollar. What was I thinking?

To all those who think voting is a waste of time or that it is ok to toss your vote by going libertarian or voting for Mickey Mouse - please take a moment and think. If you don't counter balance the idiots out there, who will. If you don't counter balance those you disagree with by voting, who will?



Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ultra-Right Wing Is Now The New Taliban.

Oh wow, this is exactly the conversation I had at work last week. I compared our own "ultra right wingers" to Telaban and al Qaeda types. I said they use the same tactics and feel justified in almost any action that begets their ends.

These people have always scared me. I recall the time in my teens when Jehovah's Witnesses came to my door. I was staying alone at my grand parent's house on Long Island. These two young men came to the house. Now, I was from a small town in Vermont - population 710 at the time - so I had never seen this type of thing before. They said their thing, and I think I said, "Are you serious?" I spoke with them for a while trying to convince them of all the other good they could be doing rather than worrying about what religion people followed. Sheeze, what a waste of time.

Flash forward 18 years and I see more and more people who just live hate. Not the Jehovah's witnesses mind you, they may be wasting my time and theirs, but they aren't out to kill to get their way. The point is, both the religious right wingers the old school racists all scare the daylights out of me.

Look, McCain's campaign is getting so full of hate he had to calm the crowd down - lest someone go out and kill Obama.

I've never heard of Rachel Maddow before, but this video editorial really hits the nail on the head.

What am I doing about it? I've supported Obama with cash and time. I've even adorned my MotorCycle with an Obama sticker - that was the toughest thing I did for the guy. Now this week I'm taking it local - on Thursday I'll be manning a phone for Kay Hagan because I don't like Dole's supporters. In other words, I'm not going to attack the crazies directly - instead I'm going to work for candidates that don't support them and are not supported by them.

What do you think? What are you doing this election season?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Amanda's picture out on the web

Periodically I google my name, my user name, my kids names etc to see where they might show up. This time a picture of Amanda from my Flickr account showed up on a website from Japan.

It was right next to one with another young girl putting lipstick on. That photo could be seen very easily as provocative. The rest of the blog had lots of posts about random photos and artsy exhibits from around the world. Some of it explicit.

Of course I was not happy to have my little girl's photo on a web site that:
a. I didn't know about
b. has basically pornography on the same page

I emailed the pages owner. Instead of asking him to take it down, I just asked how it got there. He said:

I'm sorry.
My English uses the translation software, it is not easy to understand.
Is your daughter's photograph this?
http://hugo-sb.way-nifty.com/hugo_sb/2007/06/061407amandasel.html
I found this photograph from Flikcr.
I liked this photograph very much.
And, I copied this photograph onto my blog.
This photograph is very cute and lovely.

It apologizes for my use of your daughter's photograph without permission.
Do you demand to delete this photograph from my blog?
If you demand, I will immediately delete it.

Thank you.

Hugo Strikes Back!
OK, seems harmless enough. Still, yikes. I'm going to have to think about all my online photo sharing and see if I can lock it down a bit more.

Google's picasso has a way for you to put photos on line and send a special link to people That link has a key, and only people with the correct link can see the pictures. That adds a level of security... I'm going to ask Hugo to delete the photo. I'm going to remove it from flickr as well.

What about you, do you keep an eye on your Google personality?

jake works the bball court

Earlier I wrote about teaching Jake some bball moves. He told me yesterday that he scored on an up-and-under after faking a taller defender into jumping the wrong way.

Way to go Jake!

I could not be more proud of his accomplishment.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A first for Jake and I with the bball

Jake did something kinda new today. After his homework was finished he asked me to go outside and teach him some "basketball moves". Now I'm no Julius but I can mix it up with mere mortals.

Jake listened and watched as I went through the movements for a step back jump shot. I got to tell him about keeping his body between the defender and the ball. Not to panic if the ball is poked - just dribble out if you start to get too crowded.

He picked that up pretty well. We went on the up-and-under. He had a lot of trouble going from dribble stance to squared for the up-fake.

But that's not the point. The point is, for the first time in a long while, he asked me for some advice (so he could do better on the school playground), and he listened while I dispensed some. This was huge. With his condition you never know what you'll get. Today, I got a "regular" kid - if there really is such a thing.

It was fun, I think, for both of us.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm working for Obama on Wednesday

This week I'm going to the local Obama office at 5pm. They said there will be training and then I'm off to park myself in the front of a "major business" to sign up new voters...

I guess I'm part of the machine now.

I did a few Moveon.org phone calls a while ago. It was really well put tegether. I'm interested not only to do the voter drive, but also to see what a campaign office looks like.

What about you, have you volunteered yet? We're coming up on 40 days left. Get out there!

Friday, September 19, 2008

McCain lies and contradicts himself

I read on Time.com (Time Magazine) that McCain lies and contradicts himself. 

But to really understand it, you really need to see the video tape. Luckily, Cobert has put it all together for us.

Did you watch closely? Did you hear the obscure reference to "taint" near the end? Hmmm, what could that be? Google to the rescure...The answer is it not suitable for work. If it taint suitable for work, it must be pretty funny. Sorry, bad pun.

Back to McCain, every time I see him on TV I can't help but notice how uncomfortable he looks. I wonder if during the debates he'll look like Richard Nixon next to Obama's JFK

"In substance, the candidates were much more evenly matched. Indeed, those who heard the first debate on the radio pronounced Nixon the winner. But the 70 million who watched television saw a candidate still sickly and obviously discomforted by Kennedy's smooth delivery and charisma. Those television viewers focused on what they saw, not what they heard. Studies of the audience indicated that, among television viewers, Kennedy was perceived the winner of the first debate by a very large margin."

Since it is so close yet again, I think the debates will decide the election. Since McCain's choice of Palin he seems to have gotten the upper hand as a man of the people (what a joke). Sigh. Time will tell who will win.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Are oil producers manipulating the market to keep Republicans in power

In "Is the “Commodity Super Cycle” Dead or Alive?" Gary Dorsch asserts that the oil producers are manipulating the markets to keep republicans in power.

Under the section "Saudis Topple Oil market, US Election Politics" Gary quotes Venezuelan oil chief Rafael Ramirez: "Obviously, when the price of crude oil oscillates $20 up or down in such a short time, it doesn't have anything to do with production,"

Later Gary states "However, the Saudi kingdom might be looking at the US political calendar, and would feel more comfortable with a John McCain presidency, thus Riyadh might be inclined to leave its oil output unchanged awhile longer."

So, what can we voters make of this?

Looking at the markets I see oil down, the dollar up, and the Fed rescuing weak financial companies. It seems to, to quote my dad, the fix is in. Can the republicans really manipulate the world financial and energy markets just in time for the election? Maybe not. But it seems who ever can is off to a good start.

What's interesting is that it is Britain that seems to have escalated buying of US treasuries the most among top players in this market during the past few months. I find it suspicious that Britain does not have the trade surplus with the United States one would expect for them to acquire such a huge surplus in dollars. So where did this money come from?

With no evidence of my own to support it, I suggest looking at the World's oil producers. Oil producers are receiving billions of dollars every month - we all see that at the pump. It doesn't seem difficult to front a bank in Britain and buy these treasuries. Luckily the Saudis' had foresite to nationalize The British Bank of the Middle East in 1979.

Why would the Saudi's do this? Because they feel the extremely hawkish republicans will keep the Iranians down and stay in Iraq.... Perhaps, but I can't really say...

In any event, isn't this cool? It seems we've come full circle. Back to the events that started at the time of the last major oil crisis.

dreaming in CNN

Last night I had an interesting dream. I was in a sewer tunnel watching (perhaps I was the camera man) a CNN reporter giving a live update from under Fannie Mae's building. She was describing the smell, the green moss (doesn't that need sunlight to grow?) and so forth. There was a sanitation guy their explaining how to keep things working. How to clean things up.

Obviously the current financial industry troubles are invading my dream state. But very interestingly CNN is telling me the story even in my dreams.

I first encountered CNN as a freshman in college studying to be a EE. There was no TV at my house in Vermont...let alone cable TV. I was fascinated by Headline News. It was constantly on in the Cafeteria - less so in the dorm suite. James Earl Jone's "This is CNN" made it clear by the sense of authority conveyed by his iconic voice that CNN was the place for news.

Today, 18 years later, they're in my dreams even though I listen to NPR more than watch any sort of TV. But it was the images of the bombs dropping on Iraq that made me not want to be involved in Areospace electronics design. Not going to work for those guys making the "smart" bombs I thought. I've done pretty well in Telcom instead...

What about you, do you find audio/visual technology taking such an embedded role in your dreams too? Did images seen on TV early in life affect your career choices later in life?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Maine reporter asks McCain some real questions

Does it bug you that reporters seem to softball the politicians with easy questions. It bugs me!

But not this guy, he is persistent...he should be on national TV.

Question: "What experience does she have in the field of national security?"

McCain: "Energy. She knows more about energy than, ah, probably anyone else in the United States of America..."

Unbelievable. See for yourself:



If she is such an energy expert, where are references to things she has said in the news. Go ahead, look it up. I did. In 2007, according to Google, Governor Palin is mentioned in just 28 news articles with energy or expert in the same text. In the same year, Google returns about 44900 articles with energy or expert and not Governor Palin's name.


If she really knows more than "probably anyone else in the United States" about energy, I think she'd be sited more often then 0.062% of 2007 news pieces about energy.

What do you think? I think I'm going to give some more money to Barack.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What I like about the MAC

Although I did have a bit of trouble with iPhoto, I do like many many things about the mac. Short list:
  • screen is very easy on the eyes, can't tell why but its just very pleasing to look at
  • the multi-touch trackpad turns a barely useable mousing device into something I miss when its not there
  • no window focus changes due to alerts from background software, instead the app "bounces" in the dock at the bottom of the screen
  • sound is really good
  • the way the monitor always knows how bright to be
  • ditto the back-lit keyboard
But what about the "feel" of the running programs? How does the mac compare to my work PC when they are both doing the same thing?

Here is one back to back comparison with my work PC (a Lenovo T60 2Ghz running XP pro). Watching a video on MSNBC the PC becomes nearly unresponsive. The volume controls seem to hang as I try to use them. I could still do everything, but the video - even in the background - caused my PC to be jittery. Windows pop more slowly etc. I had to go to the control pannel to bring up the volume controls. The keyboard volumn was all the way up - but somehow this is not connected to the volumn in the control panel (which was nearly all the way down). I'm sick of trying to figure out how the control panel volumn goes down - I only push the buttons on the keyboard.... In any event, as the image below shows, both processors are pretty well utilized:


Here is the mac playing the same video. On this machine, a Macbook pro (2.4 Ghz running 10.5.3) it reports one processor at 100% and the other at 11% for firefox. That leaves 89%.


There is a noticable difference in the way the machines feel. The mac is competely usable. The screen grab SW worked as if the computer was doing nothing but. On the PC, bringing up MS Paint to save the Alt-Print Screen buffer took a long long time. The volumn control on the keyboard worked with no delay. Its as if those buttons have a direct connection to the physical amplifier - it is that responsive.

I've used PCs since high school in 1989 and they've always been like this. Clunky. The Mac is not clunky. Some of the bundled software might not "just work" (at least not the way I wanted to use it) - but the system itself most certainly does.

By the way, Obama is great in this video...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I've seen enough of Palin

Palin makes me worried. She's bridged a gap McCain had with voters in a way not many could. I'm not sure how the election will turn out, but I have seen enough of Palin to know there is no way I'd vote for her ticket. With Palin on the ticket McCain has gained a large head of steam - what makes me worried is Obama may not be able to overcome it. Some thoughts on Palin:

Religion

I have read all I need to about Palin to know she is a Christian bigot. There should not be any Christian bigots, seems they should be more Christian than that, and accept people as they are.

Good thing we have Bill Burr to explain to us the trouble with overly religious white guys (and girls).

Banning Books
Don't believe it? Indeed Palin asked about banning books from the library. Not the school library where banning some books (like bomb making manuals) seems legit. We're talking the public library. She has said she was asking a rhetorical question. She likely meant hypothetical since rhetorical questions generally have a ready answer and are asked without the expectation of a response. What ever the true reason for her asking - my question is why would this even come up at all? Is it the mayor's job to police what people read? I think not.

Convention Speech Lies
Many news organizations have reported on lies Palin made during here convention speech. I don't have time to Blog about all of them. Take one example, the bridge to nowhere. She claimed to have said no thanks to money from congress for that bridge. But not really. It seems the bridge funding earmark was killed in the normal couse of budget debates in congress. Ironically they still got the funds a different way - but due to cost overruns Palin canceled the project.

What is the definition of executive experience?
Every one "flip flops" it seems, but this video speaks for itself. Truely stunning.

Well any way, I know where my vote is. We donated $$$ to Barack Obama's campaign shortly after Palin was even done speaking.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Don't even bother with quicken 2007 for mac

The internet is awash with horror stories about transferring data from PC Quicken to Mac Quicken. I followed the instructions which basically say:
  • make sure all account names and category names are less than 15 characters long.
  • export securities, categories, accounts, and transactions all separately.
  • then import them in the same order on the mac
Seriously Intuit, 15 character limit? And "because of differences in how Windows and Mac handle transactions, you might have to move some transactions to the correct accounts"? What is the problem - do the Mac and the PC guys live on the opposite sides of the tracks?

For me the problem was that all the accounts were thousands of dollars different than what the PC had to begin with. I decided to punt.

First I looked at other solutions. I downloaded money dance. Looked nice, but I could only enter 100 transactions. This meant I could not fully test it before buying it.

Quicken for Mac cost me $70 at the Apple store - but I already have a copy of Quicken 2006 for PC. So, I decided the best thing to do is to use my PC copy. To do this I had to spend $80 for a copy of VMWare Fusion. It worked perfectly. Download, install, install windows, install Quicken, transfer the files. Bam! All data is correct, and we get the same exact UI we are used to. To make sure windows stays stable I don't give it internet access nor can it see the Mac's hard drive. I also turned off Windows Update. Seems safe.... Takes a few gigs of disk space - but that doesn't matter too much to me.

Using the VMWare software cost me $10 more than Quicken for Mac 2007. Best part is it only took me a half an hour to get this working. I'd already spent five hours not getting it to work the other way.

Lucky the Quicken box says there is a 60 day money back guarantee. Can't wait to see how difficult it is to get that honored!

Judging by the internet chatter by Mac users switching from PC, I bet that Intuit will loose a bit if they don't get their transfer story straightened out...

How did you deal with your Quicken data transfer?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

iPhoto Library Size #4 - Success

My iPhoto saga has ended happily with a working shared. I used an access control list method I found through Google.

I can use almost all the iPhoto features as either user. One strange thing is that I can't delete a photo as myself - but jen (whose account created the library) can. Whatever, I find it acceptable that I can read/write the files as myself. All this so that when I use the mac, once in a while, I can use iMovie and access the family's photos from there.

Next up - Quicken 2007 for mac.

Update 9/11/2008 - I can delete files. Hmmm, not sure why I could not before.

Friday, September 05, 2008

shoe circus clown club

Not sure if the new Microsoft Ad campaign will sell anything. But its nice to see Seinfeld on TV again. Even if it is for just a minute 30 seconds. I thought the commercial was pretty funny. Here is a screen grab from Bill Gate's "platnum" membership card to the Shoe Circus Clown Club.



It might be funny, but its not as convincing as Apple's get a mac ads. Hopefully they won't have Bill adjust his shorts ever again.

What did you think of the ad?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

It's a jungle out there in middle school

Jake is doing well at his new school. He has a lot of support from day 1 which I think is helping.

Still it is daunting for him. Today he told me he is struggling with the idea of the sequence for getting to band. Go to locker, unlock locker, grab lunch (why do I need lunch on the way to band?) get to band.

Band is on the other side of a large campus and he has only 5 minutes to get there. If he is late he gets lunch detention.

Yesterday he tried 5 times before he got his combination lock open before band class. He ended up forgetting the lunch even though he opened the locker - his band instrument is always stored in the band room. 

Lunch is directly after band and in a room near the band room. Hence the need to get lunch before band - there is not enough time to go get it and get back to the lunch room (again the lunch detention looms over those who are late).

He is too shy to ask, or too proud to admit that he forgot, so he doesn't ask the lunch monitor for a hall pass to go get his lunch......he just didn't eat lunch.

It's a jungle out there in middle school.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

iPhoto Library Size #3

Try number 3... Maybe not mentioned before, but I also want to share the photo library with Jen. So I followed this KB article to create a mounted image.

The mounted image seemed to work. But I can only see photos that I imported, and Jen can only see photos that she imported.

There is this warning "Sharing iPhoto Library not recommended" in this KB. However a google search returns a lot of ways to share a library. Even this warning is unclear to me. I think it applies to pre iLife 08 versions (7.x) of iPhoto. Besides recommending not sharing contradicts the first KB.

In anycase, I'm going to have to check the groups, owners, and permissions of all the files. I'm guessing that since Jen and I are not in the same group we simply can't read the others photos.

Finally, since I've now created a shared image that needs to be mounted - I also followed this KB article which details how to make this mounting happen automatically at start up. But this didn't work for me when logging out and logging back in. Maybe on full boot it will - I haven't tried it yet.

Since this is so hard I'm guessing Apple doesn't think that a single laptop (iMac for that matter) would be used as a "family" computer. In my house, the family computer is used by at least Jen and I. We strictly use a single place on the computer to store ALL of our data. On our PC we had a folder at the root of C. We had links inside My Documents to that folder. This really helped backups and it was great when I wanted to get all our data to the mac - it was all in that one folder on the PC.

We are attempting to do the same thing with the Mac's users/Shared directory. On the pc we had a directory called photos under the top level folder. I wanted to point iPhoto at that same dir which now exists as users/Shared/photos - but that is not to be...

Ah, but this post is titled iPhoto Library Size - the size is way down. It is at 27 Gig. Which is a lot better than 104 gig. It is so different that I'm tempted to redo that first create to see if it is repeatable.... In any case, 27 Gig is "only" 3 Gig of overhead. I guess that the price one pays for quick thumbs.

I wonder if this would all be a lot different if I wasn't an engineer who uses Linux/Unix all day. I guess I'd likely show up back at the Mac store. Wonder if they'd make this work. Time for another experiment.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

fox vs chrome

Google has launched Chrome today. I downloaded it. I'm using it now. I've opend thirteen tabs in both Firefox and Chrome. I don't use IE so I won't do the same in there. The following image is my task manager:


Firefox is using 2.2 times the memory and one of my two processors is pegged at 100% (shows up as 50% in the task manager).

Wow. That is quite a difference. Here are my tabs from Chrome:


I notice, as I'm typing this, that Chrome does not spell check as I type. Howveer, I'm going to keep using it and see how it goes. Not ready to make it my default browser yet. What about you? Have you tried it?

EDIT: I just noticed that crome is using more memory than I originally thought. There are a lot of processes there. This is in keeping with google's stated architecture of having a seperate process for each tab.

Monday, September 01, 2008

iPhoto Library Size #2

UPDATE: This is by far the most read post on this blog. I did eventually get all the features I wanted from iPhoto. Here are my other iPhoto posts:

iPhoto Import Completed
iPhoto Library Size
iPhoto Library Size #3
iPhoto Library Size #4 - Success

Drop me a line in the comments, I'd like to know how you make out.
-mike




I deleted the 104 Gig gargantuan library. I imported just a few photos to see what happens. Here is the first set is 166 Megabits. Here is a unix disk usage for the files:


I discovered in forums that iPhoto, when importing, can optionally keep its in own copy of the original, or use a link to the original. I decided to try the import both ways. First without the copy:

I'm not impressed - 45 megabytes to describe 166 megabytes of data. Yikes. Here is the result when the photos are copied into the iPhoto library:



Doing a little math I can see that the overhead, the data needed to describe the iPhoto library, is larger when just a link is used than when the photos are copied in. 202 - 166 is 36. When the files are copied into the library, iPhoto needs 36 M for the database functions, but 45 M when they are left where they are.

Next I add a much larger directory of photos to see what would happen. This folder has 8.6 Gig of photos. The results (size includes earlier import of 166 M):

Size of original data: 8.8 Gig
size of linked library: 585 Meg
size of copied library: 9.4 Gig

This is much better than my first try. 9.4 Gig is only 6% larger than the original data set. This is acceptable. Interesting that with a small data set, 202/166, is 21% bigger. Looks like the overhead is large at first, but does not grow linearly with the photo data set size. This is good news.

What is the difference between my last post and now? For one, I have not imported all 17456 photos. The other difference is that before I was dragging the directories from the Finder into iPhoto. This time I'm using File->Import to library.

I'll be adding more photos later and will report how it goes.

So far my iPhoto experience has not lived up to my "mac just works" expectations. However the rest of the mac is great. I'll post on the good stuff when I get a chance.

iPhoto Library Size

My first disappointment. What is up with iPhoto 08's library size? I have 17456 photos which take up 24G of disk space. Three guesses how big my iPhoto library is.........

104 Gigabytes!!!!

Others have this same problem. It seems in iPhoto 08 it wasn't as bad. I'm going to have to delete this library and try again.

I do have version 7.1.2. I'm going to update to 7.1.4 before I do anything else.

Question: when the mac first booted it soon asked if I wanted to check for updates. I clicked yes - and it updated a bunch of stuff. Why wasn't iPhoto updated?!?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

iPhoto Import Completed

After two false starts, I'm happy to report that the photo import is complete. I failed twice to import all files at once with a single drag and drop. iPhoto crashed!

Oh well. I guess nothing is perfect.

 I did get all 17476 photos to load by importing only one of my original directories at a time. Took 2.5 hours. Some of my directories (with subdirectories) had nearly 4000 photos in them.

iPhoto automatically created "events". It looks like it created an event per month plus more for large numbers of photos (grouped together) by date. It created a total of 275 events for our 8 years of photos. In any case our library looks like this:



Everything seems to be in there and working... I like the way it organizes things for you automatically by date. Things are very easy to find. The old system of having to look at file folders and really slow thumbs is much worse.

Couple things I really like about this computer. First, the automatic lighting adjustment feature is great. This machine has a very nice backlit keyboard. When the room gets darker, say because Jen turned of her nightstand light, the keyboard lit up. Conversely, and at the same time, the screen dimmed slightly. All this happened automatically. Moving the machine directly under my lamp reverses the situation.

Second, popup dialog boxes don't steal focus. Have you ever been working in windows and have a dialog box pop up and say something - but at that very moment you hit the return? Yikes what you might have needed to read is gone. Well it seems pop ups like this do not happen on a Mac. If you're working in another app and a background app brings up a dialog box - the doc icon for the background app bounces up to alert you. To see the dialog you switch to that app when you want to.

Well, having not slept last night I better go get some shut-eye!

New Mac

Um, yesterday we got a Mac....

Bit of a tech shopping fix of my own here. We went to get some clothes and have dinner. PF Changs had a 1 hour 45 minute wait - what is up with that? Lucky the mall has a Moes!

Of course, we veered yet again into the Mac store. I'd been warned that the 13 inch screens were too small. Luckily Jen didn't even look at those. Right to the Pros. Long story short, we bought:


Wow, it was a Mac fanboy wannabe's dream day.

Time to import the photos into iPhoto - we have about 18000...



Thursday, August 28, 2008

engineer speak

Hi, I'm Mike, and ... ... ...


I'm an electrical engineer.

Crowd response: Hi Mike!

Engineer speak can be brutal. Examples quotes heard at work:
  • You'll need to use some intelligence here.
  • You're still doing the homework, but you've already failed the test.
  • Why would anyone do it that way?
  • No, no, that's not how you do it!

Bringing engineer speak home usually leads to the biggest fights. I've been learning, slowly, to check work at the door. My motorcycle helps. It clears the mind on the way home.

Couple days ago I was set up though, and failed miserably. Jen had a desk delivered. She'd had me keep the computer apart until it arrives. Genius engineer's translation: there is a new computer desk on the way.

First thing I noticed when I saw it is that our monitor, a 19" LCD, would not fit in what looked like a monitor cubby. It had a small round hole for wires and everything. Honestly any engineer would have thought the cubby was for the monitor and that a keyboard/mouse would sit in front of it. All the wires would go through the hole in the back.

With the monitor not fitting I was lost. I went off on how it was designed horribly for a computer. No place for the computer itself, drawers were there instead. No place for a printer or scanner - again the drawers. I critiqued every short coming and railed against the designers. What were they thinking? How could this be a computer desk?

None of this went over well with Jen. I'd insulted her. I did not slow down and listen, nor had I trusted that she had a plan. I was very foolish - and paid for it with a nice little shouting match.

Later after we'd made up she was able to tell me that the use of our current HUGE grey box computer was temporary. She'd bought this setup because it fit the room AND because we've been planning on getting a laptop.

"Oh", I said, "well that will fit".

I bet other engineers out there have used engineer speak at home too. Tell me about it in the comments...

Friday, August 22, 2008

dot on the forehead

So there I was at my kids 5th birthday party. It was great, family, friends - even my sister was there. This was the "family" party. The "kid" party will be at our house tomorrow. The family party was part of our vacation to the North East.

Earlier in the day I had run into the little brother of an old friend of mine. This guy had really grown up; marines, IRAQ war vet, 2 kids, living in CA. I asked him about how he is doing and what he does for work now. Just kidding, but he is a sheriff's deputy. We had a nice chat - so I invited him, his family, and his parents to the party.

After the presents, the cake, and the kid fun, there was a group of us sitting around a fire in the backyard. I don't know how it came up - I think we were talking about how far we'd come to be there - the guy's wife starts loudly complaining about taking her kids shoes off at the airport. I take off my slip off shoes and recommend she gets some - easy on, easy off.

Nope, those are no good. She explains the floor of the airplane is full of germs she wants to protect her kids from - cause they'd take them right off. Huh? My kids eat off the floor just before napping under the seat in front of them...

Next she drops a bomb - something like: and what's with all the security crap? Do I look like I have an f'n dot on my forehead? At this point several things pop into my head:
  • did she just really say that?
  • aren't those dots a Hindu thing? aren't (Bush's) terrorists Islamic?
  • would it be OK to correct her in front of everyone on the Hindu thing?
I said nothing. But my wife and I did both stand up and make our goodbyes. I guess we chose to speak with our feet.

I kinda regret it. She needed an education. But I just couldn't bring myself to make a scene at my mom's house, my kid's 5th birthday, in front of my seldom seen sister. Sigh.

What would you have done?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

super phishing

It seems that phishing, the practice of fooling people into giving out their identity through legitimate looking correspondence that simply request it, will not die any time soon.

I've seen pop ups for years hawking stuff. Some even look like your computer is telling you something. Clicking anywhere except the top right-most X (in windows XP) is the only way to kill these. I think most know this - hopefully!

Now, from Jeff Atwood I see a new twist. The phishers make a real looking program box where even the banner at the top is fake and part of the phishing web site. Clicking anywhere causes the browser to attempt to install hacker software on your computer. Yikes. How to get out of this pickle? There is no safe click!

You'd need to know (again for windows) the button combo that causes a program to shut down - simultaneous press of ALT and F4.

How many "normal" users even know about ALT-F4. Seems they better learn it. Educate your parents....

Monday, August 18, 2008

tech shopping fix

I've been itching to get an iPhone and a Mac for some time now. We got carpets and new kitchen flooring instead... My tech shopping fix is not happening.

But a visit to my mom's house in VT provide a rare opportunity....

Picture this, I show up at mom's and instead of a tech free week I'm handed a delicious box of...DSL equipment. That's right, mom is finally exiting the dark ages and getting "high speed" internet in the form of 768 DSL. Way to go mom!

So up to the computer room I go. Horrors, she still has the 15" monitor at 1024x768. I set up the DSL, and in the process reject all the crap-ware the DSL provider offers to install. It is distressing that the screens suggesting what to install don't say anything about what is needed or not for the DSL to work. Of course, not one bit of the free "Software" is needed. I assume most users would have installed it all - not knowing the difference. That aside, the DSL worked great. I was somewhat perplexed that they sent her phone filters, but the phones worked fine with or without them. I didn't do any experimenting on this front though.

Next day she is taking pictures and squinting at her digicam's 1.5 inch screen. I show her mine which has a 3" screen. She is surprised to learn this camera cost me $180 bucks... I also tell her she can get a new LCD for the computer for about the same price.

Now the final straw - she has cordless phones that only run a few minutes before cutting out randomly. Not a battery problem - something stranger.

That was it, we were off to Circuit City. New 22" monitor, new PowerShot SD750, and new cordless phones - $500 bucks. She also got a small camera bag and 2gig SD memory card.

Mom gets new stuff - I get a much needed tech shopping fix!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

30 seconds to iPhone

My friend Josh's wife went into the AT&T store to get a tech questioned answered. While her black berry was getting the once over, she wondered and picked up an iPhone. Within 30 seconds, by Josh's account, she turned and asked "when can I get one of these?"

That is an amazing story to me. Michele is a long time blackberry user. Not just a user, she loved it. Took it everywhere, used it all the time, encased it in rubber... Her current unit is 2 years old. Still in less than a minute of exposure to the iPhone she not only wanted on, she ordered one - the 16 Gig version.

What is going on here? The interface won her over. In seconds she felt at home with it. No manuals, no time learning a clunky OS.

I'm stunned. This is $300 out of pocket, a new contract, a totally new phone and interface. Yet she takes the plunge. Hole hog in fact - she now has her very first iTunes account.

I think its clear that Apple has done something special here. And its not just Apple fans making it happen. You don't grab 20% of the Smart Phone market in 18 months with just Apple fans who have 6-8% of the PC market.

So here I am in their house playing with her iPhone. I want one too. My Verizon contract is up in September.....

Thursday, August 07, 2008

working out at a gym

Do you work out 3 times a week or whatever the feds are recomending these days? Sheeze who can read their reports anyway?

I don't do it, but I should. I notice it too. Only two minutes on a bicycle and I'm done. I just saw a post about how working out less will work for you. I like this idea. I think I'll take it to the gym room of the new office. It will have 3500 sqr. feet of space for weights etc... No membership required!

No excuses either....

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I'm at my sister in laws

I have almost nothing to say to these people so I'm blogging....I only see them twice a year.

Actually I'm checking email at work. They give me full access over a web client. It looks just like Outlook at work. Really nice - all the folders I have are there and all the filtering is taken care of. Now if I could just get people to use subjects that match the email they're sending...

What do you do at family events? I play with the kids, eat and watch TV. Jen can talk for hours until her voice is hoarse. Not me.

I've been in the pool already, eaten already, and now I'm on the computer. Later I'll watch TV, maybe. That people magazine on the coffee table with Angie and Brad's babies is calling to me....

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What is it you're emailing me about?

Recently I received this email:

Sent: Monday, August 04, 2008 9:39 AM
To: Birenbach, Mike
Subject: RE: foo_block : synthesis constraints

Hi Mike,
I am going to verify the foo_block in foo_chip instead of John Smith.
I have looked at the test plan and gone through the build creation process.
The process described in the document is specific to environment at San Diego.
I will be verifying the foo_block at foo_my_site. I am thinking of copying  specific files
in verification env from San Diego and replace dut with the current release in foo_my_site.
In this case, could you please tell me the files I need to copy from the current 
environment.


What is going on here? The author has asked for information but blasted it into an existing thread. This is called Thread Hijacking. Wikipedia says this has two issues:
  • disruption to email clients that display discussions in a hierarchical, or threaded, fashion. An email client usually cannot do content analysis of messages to make this determination; rather, it relies upon an In-Reply-To: header field that records the Message-ID of the respondee. Thus a threadjacked message is mixed into the tree of an unrelated thread, rather than in a new one.
  • degradation to search. Email clients often default to searching the Subject: line, rather than the more voluminous bodies of messages. An attempt to search for a message with contents very different from its Subject: will then be thwarted.

I have a very bad internal reaction to this behavior. I receive almost 100 emails a day, I spend a lot of time reading, deleting, sorting, and responding. This one made the hair stand up on the back of my head. The author has put an added responsibility on me when he really just needs information from me. I have to either respond right now or flag for later. No real hope for searching easily.

What to do? When I do respond I'll usually add to the subject line something that matches the new topic...

What about you, what is your strategy?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

blogging disease

I think MySpace and the like are a sickness. Wall-e proved it. All the people were speaking to each other through video chat instead of interacting directly.

I've posted few blog entries and I think the same can be said for blogging. I find I check for comments a lot...which is a symptom of the disease. Another symptom is the delusions of grandeur - where one writes blog entries conversationally, as if people are reading it...

So, what do you think?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Security problem?

I've read and heard over and over that the best hackers use the weakest link to hack into systems. Don't know what the weakest link is? It's you and me! How else could phishing scams be so successful?

Today I came across this image via digg. Supposedly this is a person tricking another person into giving out their password by telling them that the IRC software they are using will not display his password. Check it out:


Now I don't think I'd fall for that. But plenty of people probably would. So keep a sharp lookout and remember to keep your password(s) to yourself.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tastes change

Everyone's tastes change as they get older. When I was a kid I loved Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. So much that I used to make Triple-Decker PB&Js! Sometimes I'd go crazy and make a Quadruple-Decker!!! Today I can hardly stand the stuff. I still make them in a pinch. But by the time I'm on the last quarter sandwich I literally start to gag. I need a lot of milk to get it down.

I realized how my tastes are changing as I age while I made a tuna sandwich the other day.

Sidebar: How does Mike make a tuna sandwich? Glad you asked.

To start, I like white albacore tuna. In water please, no oil. You can use what ever you like. Pictured, I have one can of tuna, one celery stick, chopped, and about two table spoons of mayo. Finally some salt and pepper to finish it up.

I don't think there is a need to measure. Mayo for example, just feel the tuna get soft as you add it in a bit at a time.

Speaking of mayo, I use the real deal - no "light" knock-off for me. I say, if you're going to risk the mercury, may as well have real mayo to go with it.

I drain the tuna and press with fork in a colander before I mix all this up to remove the water. Why? I don't know. I was shown this way by a chef while working in a restaurant on Long Island. It is a long-standing habit.



Bread has to be whole wheat for me. Toasted and buttered. Not too much of either.






Put it together with some lettuce and tomato slices, and I have a snack I can finish without gagging.



As I was saying tastes change.

Back when I was in middle school a neighbor had a Toyota Supra. For the longest time I always wanted one. I swore to myself I'd buy one when I could. While in college I drooled over the last model imported to the US. A bright yellow one was always teasing me from the student parking lot at RIT. Some go to college with a bit more coin than others! But I digress.

Now that I can afford a nice car, I drive a Volvo s40. I find it interesting that, using the 89 Supra for comparison, both of these cars have the same horsepower. The one I have seats 4 comfortably and doesn't hurt the kidneys on long drives.

I notice lots about myself changing as I get older. One of them is the set of things that I get excited about - otherwise known as my tastes.

What about you, how are your tastes changing?

Oh, and in case you're worried about me, I may not have a supra but I still have a fun toy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Check in your Changes

At work, managing changes in files is a big part of what I do. These files are put together to make up a design unit. Many design units are put together to make a whole SOC. Much of the data is constantly evolving.  Files might be changed by myself in my current workspace or by someone else and committed to the server ahead of me. All these changes have to happen cohesively to keep development moving forward.

As an individual contributor, part of my job is not just making changes but also managing and understanding how files are changing in the design as a whole. Importantly, when I change a file and get set to check it in I need to be sure the changes are correct. If that seems obvious, it is. But truly "correct" goes beyond just running a test suite. I typically check:
  • are the comments still correct
  • are there any debug print statements that need to be deleted
  • are there any temporary experimental changes still hanging around
  • are any files changed unexpectedly
  • are my files too old to commit
After checking the status of every file to make sure there are no unexpected changes, my I perform a diff of every file. I use a graphical tool, tkdiff. Sometimes the differences are so numeras that the task seems daunting:


That picture represents 67 changes across almost 800 lines of code. Going through this change by line by line takes 15-20 minutes. The cleanup is worth it. Code that is checked in after this type of last minute read-through goes a long way towards keeping the code the best it can be - outside the domain of pure functionality.

By using tkdiff, I can scroll round up and down from each change. This lets me look at the comments - especially the ones that have not changed next to code that has changed. This is how I keep comments correct.

That last bullet, "are my files too old.." is very important. In this case, when the commit is run one of too things might happen. One, the commit goes through. Or two, the version control tool reports that I can't commit because my changed file is out of data with respect to the server. Two may seem unfortunate, but it is actually better than the first one which can introduce errors later. In the second case, I'm forced to update, and re-run the test suite. Why isn't it OK to just check in when I know my workspace contains a lot of stale (files that have been changed on the server)? Because after I commit my changes the state of the server data is not known - it hasn't been tested yet. It could easily fail the test suite.

What to do about a workspace that is out of date depends on the data that is out of date. If it is related to your change, you really should update your workspace and re-test. If it isn't it might be safe to simply commit the change. But beware, it is always better for your group (your colleagues who will soon see all of your changes!) to check your work first. So finish your changes, then merge with the latest data on the trunk, turn the test suite and deal with any issues yourself. This saves the team valuable time. One way to do this is to "merge early and often." If you never let your workspace get stale, you won't have this issue.

If you can convince everyone on your team the importance of merging early and often. To only run the test suit on data that is as close to HEAD of the tree as possible. You'll find the group will save time by spending less of it sorting things out with those annoying reply-to-all "who checked in xyz and broke everything" emails.

Of course none of this replaces keeping yourself from going dark. There is also the need for periodic peer reviews.

So, how do you manage your check in process?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Computers for the Kids

Getting a computer for your kids presents quite a few problems. Some of these are:
  • preventing unwanted programs
  • preventing viruses and ad-ware
  • keeping OS up to date
  • keeping software running

I just stumbled on a interesting $249 (minus keyboard, mouse, and monitor) solution: CherryPal.


It works like this: you buy the box, attach your keyboard, mouse and monitor to it and turn it on. It uses very little power itself and has almost no storage. How can it be any good? All the apps and your storage are kept on servers managed by CherryPal.

This means that your kids can only use what they provide which is currently: "OpenOffice.org office productivity suite, iTunes, a CherryPal-brand media player that supports all common files formats, and a CherryPal-branded instant messenger that supports all common IM programs." With more to come.

You can attach an external hard drive if you want to keep your files locally. They say they support printers, cameras etc. One thing they don't support is a monitor greater than 1024x768 - basically a deal breaker for anyone other than the kiddies. I could find some CRTs with this resolution, but no LCDs at NewEgg. 1024x768 is clearly old school.

This product is not available yet and I'd wait for professional reviews first. But looking at the web site CherryPal seems like an inexpensive way to get computing for your kids that is not maintained-by-dad.

Of course, if you have the cash, get a Mac.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Wow, I'm famous. Just kidding. Jib-Jab has a new feature that lets you add yourself to videos. It's lots of fun. Give it a try yourself!