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 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 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:


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.

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?!?