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 

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?