Tuesday, December 30, 2008

“Digging up” some long lost relatives (Geni.com)

Well, I'm late again. This is NOT going to become a habit! (If you know me, you know that's likely going to be a lie)

I wanted to write this week about a discovery I made (alright, I was pointed to this by @TS_Elliott on Twitter). I've always had an interest in genealogy, but never had the time or ability to do it justice. That's where this discovery (alright already! She already got credit. Leave me alone!) comes in.

Check out www.Geni.com. Geni is a combination genealogy website and social networking site. Let me give you an example of how this works out by talking about my experience.
 

Like I said already, @TS_Elliott pointed me to this site from Twitter because we may be related (I guess she used to be a Stratton in a previous life J). So, I went to the site, started an account, and started putting my family tree in by having Geni search my Gmail account. OK, this looks familiar; sort of like Facebook or Linkedin. Same concept. Then I built the relationships of the people I added (my brothers and sisters and my dad), filled in the holes, then sent out invites to all the family emails I had. That's when the magic happened.
 

The next day I got an email from Geni. One of my brothers had connected with Geni and updated lots of information.
 

I need to make a small break here and add some information, because I'm starting to sound like a bad son and brother. I'm from a BIG family. Huge by today's standards. Five brothers, two sisters (ok, three if you count Jackie; and most of us do because she lived with us all but the first 5 ½ or so years. Sometimes sharing life experiences is thicker than blood). AND both my parents came from big families. And most of their brothers and sisters had big families. So you see where I'm going with this. As an example, when I went to my parent's 50th wedding anniversary, I had cousins come up and introduce themselves to me. Yeah, it's a big family. So, that said, it's hard for us to keep up with each other, especially since we're scattered to the four winds in the US.

 

OK, where was I? Oh, yeah. One of my brothers had connected with Geni and updated lots of information. I was never the organized one, so I was happy about that part. Then I started getting more emails. My daughters and my wife connected and updated their info. My mother-in-law got on and updated her family information. My daughters' in-laws got on and updated their information. My sisters got on and updated their information. Then the real magic happened. My nephew got on to Geni.
 

I have since learned that Shawn has been doing genealogy research on our family tree for a few years or so. He had many many generations of information in another program on his computer, but couldn't share it with anyone, and was sort of floating alone in a sea of names and birthdates. One of the many benefits of Geni is the ability to import GEDCOM formatted information into the website. GEDCOM is short for GEnealogical Data COMmunication, and is a standard for transferring genealogical information from one program to another. This is one standard in my life that has come in useful!
 

Geni also has some other neat features, like a Google Map of where people in your tree were born (not very interesting if you never left your home town, but interesting for some of us "far flung" folks). You can also connect your tree to other trees if you can find a link point. That's where trees start getting big. Also, each tree has "Awards " (in World of Warcraft terms they would be Achievements). I started my tree on December 18th. I've added over 200 names to the tree (Shawn added over 1000!), invited 14 people, and uploaded 5 photos. Cool stats if you're into stats (and I am).
 

So, to top this all off, I'm now connected to 1,347 people on Geni (and I just got an email from them saying my tree is growing!). I'm learning things about my family I remember hearing about but was too young to care about (like being a descendent of Christopher Martin who signed the Mayflower Compact and died in Plymouth Colony on January 18th, 1621 (exactly 342 years before I was born). Also that the Crocker family line was descended from English Gentry, the Cole family line descended from the Norse invasion of England, and lots of other fun facts!
 

Geni.com is a really cool website, with features that make it fun, educational, and a great way to keep in touch with your family (especially if it's as huge as mine is). I highly recommend it. Check it out.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Social Site for World of Warcraft (L33tLink.com)

As promised, I'd like to introduce you to a "new" website that I found using Twitter. The site is L33tLink.com. To quote their website, "L33TLINK.com is a start-up company based in Montreal, founded by a guild of MMORPG gamers that wanted to have an easy way to organize and stay in-touch."


 

I know what you're thinking; "MMORPG gamers that want to stay in-touch in RL? No way!" I have one thing to say to that: WAY. I looked at their site, signed up, and I was hooked. I asked the folks there at L33tLink if I could blog about their site and they graciously agreed. I hope I do them right.


 

So what is L33tLink really? It's like FaceBook for gamers. That's the best way I can describe it. Once you sign up for your account, you start importing your toons into L33tLink. That's when the fun begins. You are automagically included in groups for your realm (server), your battlegroup, and your guild if you're in one. If you're the Guild Master you become the admin for your guild group on the site. Cool. I found one problem with importing my toons into the site, but I'm guessing most people won't have this problem (unless you're in my guild). Most of us are altaholics, so we have many toons in the guild. In fact, I have 10 (the max) toons on Rexxar, all in my guild (Lolli Pop). I had to keep bouncing back and forth between L33tLink and the Armory to get my toons in. But like I said, you probably won't have this problem unless you're like me.

[<stand at podium> "Hi, I'm Phil, and I'm an Altaholic" <crowd> "Hi, Phil!"]

So, what I really wanted to do was more than just a review of the site, but also to tie in some of the geekiness that is me with the actual planning and development of the site. I sent the team at L33tLink 10 questions to answer for me, and they did just that. I also had a "secret shopper" join the site (thanks Erin!) and send me some thoughts. First the geekiness.


 

Every great venture has an evil genius behind it. L33tLink's evil geniuses are Jordan Greenberg and David Heuff. They saw a problem and tried to fix it in a unique way. They wanted to be able to interact with their WoW friends even when they weren't playing. Odd, I know. Why would you want to not be playing WoW? Anyway, their guild Echoes is testing the site and providing lots of feedback. What I find interesting is the fact that most of the guild is geographically situated around Montreal, but there are a few stragglers in Arizona. I guess they couldn't handle the cold. Anyway, they started the site with the guild and a few developers. And it's moving forward in a big way.


 

I found L33tLink on Twitter like I said before. L33tLink now has over 250 followers on Twitter, and that's without advertising. There'll be more.


 

The guildies all play (of course) and five of them already have level 80's (a feat I have not yet achieved because I got side-tracked into playing my new Death Knight, at least that's my excuse). I'm not alone in being an altaholic, Echoes has one of their very own with 30 alts. I think that even beats me.


 

I asked Jordan how the development schedule was holding up, and I got the answer any good program manager would give: we were behind schedule, but we're all caught up now! ;-) Within the next few weeks they should be sending out an official press release announcing the launch of the BETA. They are also planning to release a WoW-themed video filmed a few months ago. Jordan says "the video does a great job of bridging the gap between the game and real life, which ultimately is the true purpose of the site". I'm looking forward to seeing it and hope it gets pushed on WoW Insider and other blogs bigger than mine.


 

I can't say enough about this being a cool site. This is a cool site! Right now, they're focusing specifically on World of Warcraft, but if any other MMOs get even close to being as big (<cough, cough> Warhammer Online <cough, cough>) they have plans to expand and support them, too.


 

So, what's the "Out of Box Experience" like on L33tLink? I had a secret shopper set up an account and let me know what she thought. One word of warning, she's an altaholic like her dad (yeah, that's what I said. I play WoW with my kids. Get over it. They're adults.).


 

Quote with editorial changes and comments:

I started the process of signing up at 10:12. It's 10:23 and I've registered all my Rexxar characters up on the site. The interface is really cute, nice color scheme and the layout is nice, too. I like it, but definitely have all your characters names written down before you start though. I can't remember my Ysera characters' names, so I can't get them on there. I think it's pretty cool that you can see the armor that I have equipped, and what I have used my talent points for (she's never used the Armory before). It's really easy to find people, especially if they are in your guild! I found you in like 2 seconds, all I did was look at my groups. There you were in Lolli Pop. It really seems like it's a MySpace for WoW.


 

Well, there you have it. I highly recommend signing up for an account on L33tLink. It's a great site, great way of organizing the information and keeping in touch with folks in RL. And you can organize your raiding schedule on the site, keep track of folks (I haven't seen Killer in a while, I wonder where he's at?).


 

Great site, two thumbs up, and 5 stars! Great job Echoes, keep it up!


 

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Cobalt Bomber and dead servers

Well, I missed my (self imposed) Saturday deadline, but I think I have a good excuse. This weekend was REALLY busy. Friday (I took the day off) was my wife's birthday. No I won't tell you how old she is; I'm not stupid. Saturday morning was the church Leadership Meeting in the morning, tutoring Java in the afternoon and my company "Holiday" party at 6:30. And Sunday? Sunday I should have just stayed in bed. Let's just leave it at that.


 

Well I wanted to tell you about some of the favorite things in my life. First I want to write about my baby that's almost 7 years old now.


 

As I said earlier, I drive a Honda Insight. She's Monte Carlo Blue Pearl, but one of the guys at work calls it the Cobalt Bomber, so I'll stick with that. I test drove her during Christmas vacation up in Maine in 2001/2002. She was the first standard transmission Insight I drove, and I loved her. She even handled well in the snow. But living in the Virginia area, I expected I'd have to buy my Insight down there. I was wrong.


 

I was waiting to find out if I got the job teaching Air Force ROTC at the University of Maryland. Once I found out I got the job, we knew I needed to buy the Insight, just to be able to make it to work and back in a reasonable time. I lived about 60 miles from the school, and if you know anything about the traffic on I-95 in the DC area, you don't do that route fast by yourself during "rush hour". And Virginia law says you can take a hybrid car in the HOV lanes alone. Sweet.


 

Over the years, I've put lots of miles on her. 136,000 miles so far. And I'm still on the first set of hybrid batteries. I'm not sure if that's some kind of record or anything, but I think it's cool.


 

Break Break.


 

Last week my Linux server crashed. It was a slow and painful death. It WAS a Fedora Linux server with Samba and Galleon on it. I was using Galleon to move my TiVo files from my 2 TiVos to my server, then decrypt the files to mpeg files and make them available for other computers on my network. That was all well and good, until something happened. It may have been from too many power fluctuations (although with the UPS connected to it, that shouldn't have been a problem), or it could be just that the disk drives are getting old. It started with occasional disk errors (bad inodes). It slowly went downhill from there. I think it took 3 days before everything crashed. I was running my conversion script on the TiVo files to decrypt them when I got so many inode errors it wouldn't finish anything. I had to reboot the server and run fsck on the disk.


 

Maybe it was the fact that I was using logical volumes, but I thought that ext3 was a "self-healing" file system. Whatever; it's dead. Now I'm looking for a copy of Microsoft Home Server. Lots of places sell it, and if you install off a demo CD, you get a 60 day trial before you need to register it. So I'm trying to cobble together a system that will run Home Server. I'll pass on what I learn once I get it up and running. I've learned there are all sorts of cool programs for Home Server. More later on that. Next week (hopefully on time this time), well actually on Saturday, I'll have a review of a new social website for World of Warcraft players.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Thin Client Doesn’t Mean Anorexic Counseling

Another Saturday morning rolls around, and since this was my first full week back at work, I have nothing but work on my mind. That can be a bad thing. Especially if you expect me to blog about World of Warcraft or anything non-IT related today. Sorry. Not going to happen.


 

Can someone explain to me when and why we've started moving back to the mainframe mentality? It seems like the only thing I've heard this week is "thin client" this and "thick client" that. But I guess it's the natural progression.

I remember back in '89 (I'm starting to sound like Homer's father Abe!) everyone was saying "eventually the network will BE the computer". I thought that was a cool idea, but there was no way that would happen. Well, we're getting there. Ever use Google Docs? What about Gmail? OK, those can be extreme examples, but what about AOL (the old AOL with the dial-up connection, not the website). Everything you needed to get to was available at 14.4kbps. Now things are much faster, and we can do so much more. Do you really need a powerful desktop computer? Not if you have a reliable network connection.


 

That's where the idea of the netbook computer came from. What we would have classified as a wimpy little laptop with no future, with some storage space, but not a lot, connected to a big network "pipe" so you can do everything you need to do somewhere else. You don't really need anything except a browser anymore. I won't make a list because there's one here. I hope it's up to date (not that it's possible to be up to date because things change so fast).


 

We're actually getting to the point of the network being the computer. Or at least that's what it looks like. It's more like the old mainframe. All the processing (or at least the heavy lifting) is done at the far end, and all your system does is the rendering (not like a meat packing plant, or maybe it is and it just smells better). Thin clients are like this, but the "browser" is in firmware. Take it off the net and you have a nice doorstop with a monitor, keyboard and mouse connection. Sort of like the old 3278 terminals or X-terms, depending on your era. Here's the main question about thin clients: are they cost effective and are they more secure. Ok. That was two questions. Sue me. I'm writing this, not you.


 

Are they cost effective? Well, that depends on your timeframe (and we had this discussion at work). There is an inherent up-front cost of implementing a thin-client solution. You need the clients (which are about $300 or so). That's the easy part. Now you need the back-end horsepower. Some places are using hardware solutions and some are using software. Hardware-wise you have blade servers, where each "blade" contains multiple processors and RAM, and multiple blades are connected across a high-speed backplane for communication between systems. However, that requires a storage solution, usually a Storage Attached Network or SAN. Software solutions need to run on mammoth computers with lots of horsepower; the desktop that is rendered on the thin client is run in a virtual machine. Storage can be local or SAN (SAN for really BIG solutions). So, you can see, there is a big up-front cost to implementing thin-clients. However, that investment, done wisely, can last for a longer timeframe than a desktop investment. So, short term, no they are not cost effective, but over the long term, they can be if done wisely.


 

Are they more secure? Well, again, that depends; but this time it depends on your definition of secure. For physical security, thin clients are great. There's no data that physically leaves the data center, unless it's printed. Everything is stored in a secure facility, so it's "safe" (physically). There are some aspects of computer security that are inherent with the thin client solution. If you're using virtual systems, security updates can be installed almost instantaneously, and the need for system administrators is decreased (but NOT eliminated!). So if you're using a Microsoft based client and it's Patch Tuesday, you can push the patches to your VM image, then force all your clients to restart (not a long process if you store your client state correctly), and Bob's your uncle. But, the opposite is also true. If there is an unknown weakness in your VM image, all your clients are vulnerable and so is your data.


 

As an aside, why are people in the IT industry using environmental terms to describe security problems? Data leakage? Data Spill? Call it what it is: a security problem. Someone did something they shouldn't have and now everyone knows something they weren't supposed to know. It's not a diaper; it's your data system.


 

So I guess my point is that the network is becoming the computer. But that doesn't mean things will get easier for the IT geeks out there. In fact, I think you'll need to be more careful because there is a false sense of security because "All my data is locked up in the datacenter, why should I worry". Trust me. Worry.


 

ADD moment: Before I close this, I want to say I've been introduced to a new social networking site for gamers (I know, social and gamer don't go together, ha ha, get over it). It's still in beta, so I've asked for permission to share info on it with you. Once I hear something, I'll let you know.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wrath of the Lich King – Death Knight Class

OK, I said I'd blog about my new Death Knight (and to save typing, DK from here on out), so here we go.


 

As I said earlier, I started my DK last Friday (before Thanksgiving). Uknowuwanna is an undead DK. And I've gotten her up to level 60 already, and I've made the run to Shattrath already, so that's where my hearthstone is set. Now I can pop out to Ebon Hold when I need to train, and just hearth back to Outland. Not a bad deal. But I'm getting way ahead of myself.


 

I'm trying to understand the thought processes behind the DK. So, Arthas supposedly re-animated the dead body of some "Hero of Azeroth" to make this level 55 DK that I am. Does that mean that DK's don't have a soul? Why can I rez, then? Ok, not that I really care, just let me go out and kill stuff! And a DK can kill LOTS of stuff. When Uknowuwanna was level 58, she was wandering through Silithus to get her World Explorer achievement (merit badge, as my daughter calls it) and got attacked by 3 Orcs; one level 58, one level 59 and a level 60 elite. Had it been any other level 58, it would have been bad news. However, since she had some of Noth's Special Brew, and all those wonderful DK abilities, she proceeded to whack them about the head and shoulders until they all died, with about 50% health left over. (No, DKs aren't over powered!). Garden would have gotten his butt handed to him at level 58 in the same situation.


 

DK is definitely a hero class. You can do much more with a solo DK than with any other race / class combination. Is this a bad thing? Does this make DKs over powered and dangerous? Yes and no. Stay with me here. Yes, they are somewhat over powered, but that's the intention of the class. I think they should limit folks to 1 DK per server per account, on top of the "must have a level 55 on that server" limitation. Keep the population down, but don't restrict people who are altaholics like me from playing, too. Also, I don't think a DK could solo an instance that would give any experience or reputation, so I don't think that will be a problem, either. People will still have to LFG (sorry Ariel, I couldn't resist) as a DK tank.


 

One thing I did with Uknowuwanna was make her a scribe. I know, real original. Make the new class use the new profession. Don't you try to tell me you didn't make a Draenei Shaman jewelcrafter; and don't you lie to me! Inscription is an interesting profession. It allows the user to create new items called Glyphs that add to your class abilities. You can add major or minor glyphs based on what level you have reached. Nice idea and it adds to the customization of the character. Also, you can make scrolls, cards, books, etc. Lots of cool things that add to the game (or have been in the game and you always wondered where they came from). The obvious parallel profession for scribe is herbalist (since you make your pigments from herbs).


 

Now, here's where I start to have a problem with the DK. When I'm level 55, I know all the flight paths, I have learned First Aid up to 275, I have all these wonderful abilities, but I don't have any knowledge of a profession, and I don't know how to fish? How can I not know how to fish? I'm level 55, for goodness sake (I know, bad choice of words)! Did I not go fishing as a kid? Wait, I know. When Arthas reanimated me from the dead hero of Azeroth I was, I was dead long enough to have TOTAL AMNESIA of my previous life. OK, it's a little inconvenient, but not completely a game killer. However, lots of lower level characters are plenty ticked off when they see these level 58 DKs out there mining copper. Both my wife and I have heard more than a few "@&* *$%+ Death Knights!" comments while going around trying to get our profession skills up to where they should be. I've compared being a DK with being a doctor from South America somewhere. When you move to the US, you either have to start as an intern somewhere and go through all that crap again, or start a new career. Either way it stinks. So, if you're out there playing your little level 8 gnome warlock and see this level 58 human DK wandering around picking your flowers, don't cuss at him. Just understand he had to start at the bottom in his new profession, so he's more like you than you thought!


 

DK play is fast and furious. The first three levels (and I'll try not to spoil anything if you haven't played one yet) are full of interesting quests that expand the story line, teach you how to use your new skills, show you some of new in-game abilities (like siege engines, etc), and get you really beat up in the process. Some of the quests are more like raids or PvP – very fast, just hit what's around you and hope you do enough damage to make a dent. Some of the quests, like the ones that introduce the siege engine abilities, can be really fun and I wanted to do them over again, but unfortunately you can't (or at least I haven't found a way to do that).


 

As I said before, I really like the way the DK class expands the story line. My son said "That's not what DKs are supposed to be like." Well, sorry, but I guess they had to take some liberties, and what do you care anyway, you've given up Warcraft for playing Warhammer Online anyway! The Story line flows nicely and has some nice foreshadowing, leaving you knowing how it has to end, but not really sure how you're going to get there. There are no real surprises, but some nice little twists to how I thought I understood the lore of World of Warcraft. Not so much that I can't deal with the differences, and not so much that it doesn't make any sense from the past games.


 

Also, Blizzard added achievements into the game (like I alluded to earlier). Some of them are funny, some of them are simply annoying, and some of them are real challenges (especially for opposing factions!). Cool feature to add into the game, too bad Warhammer Online already has it and now it looks like you are desperately copying them to keep subscribers.


 

On a side note, my ENT visit went very well on Monday. They diagnosed me with BPPV, and treated me for it the next day. Aside from the fact I had to sleep in an easy chair for Tuesday and Wednesday nights and not move my head much for 48 hours, the treatment wasn't too bad and seems to have worked. I'm only having vertigo for a few seconds first thing in the morning. Also, I think having to go off my medicines for last weekend made me realize I didn't need the Flexaril and only needed the Motrin when the pain got bad. I feel much better, and my neurosurgeon has released me to go back to work full time starting tomorrow. That may mean there'll be less of these little notes (ok, huge tomes of drivel), but at least I'm recovered!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A New Search Begins

Before I get into this, I want to tease you a little bit with my experiences last night in Wrath of the Lich King. I started a Death Knight last night and got her (yes, her) up to level 58 (not a great feat considering you start at 55). The story line is well done, and although I knew how the starting area had to end up, I wasn't quite sure how it was going to get there. All in all (without any spoilers) it was well written, scripted, designed and animated. I was actually paying attention to the dialog and reading the text of the quests, if that tells you anything (I usually just accept and run and try to figure it out later. Not a good idea in this area!). Two thumbs WAY up.


 

OK, so my wife has been having issues lately with the dreaded BSOD, and sometimes while playing WoW, which is really bad in a battle, trust me. The system logs say it's the SATA driver. It's a little early for the hard drive to be failing, so I'm guessing the SATA drivers that shipped caused bad writes to the disk and now that the drivers are fixed, it's not reading those bad writes correctly. I figured what we needed to do is roll back to the factory install (easy to do with a Dell, just boot from the restore partition) and then restore from a backup. So that's what I did.


 

Well, it's not quite as easy as it sounds. I did a full backup using the Microsoft backup tool built into Vista to a network hard drive. Once that was done, I reformatted and put the factory image on the primary partition. Then I ran the restore from the network. After a reboot, voila! None of the applications were installed and nothing worked the way it did before the re-image. Well, I guess I can chalk that one up to my own stupidity, but I don't want to have that happen again. I need to find a backup and restore tool that will do the registry information as well as all the applications. I need it to be able to work to restore to a different drive geometry just in case I need to move someone's applications from one computer to another (which I will because my tablet is being recycled down the line). I am willing to accept any suggestions, I-told-you-so's and any other pokes you want to give me. Oh, and it needs to be cheap (which should go without saying in this economy).


 

Let the search begin!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wrath of the Lich King, Graphics and More

OK. We installed Wrath of the Lich King on Wednesday night. But even before that, the questions started rolling around in my head.

Why are you trying to get to level 80 so quickly? What's the deal? Have you even LOOKED at the graphics and new models in the game?

I'll be honest; I just took my 2 70s to Northrend. And they're STILL 70. The graphics in this expansion are amazing, even just looking at the Howling Fjord. The trees remind me of the trees around Seattle. On the ship, as it slips up the fjord toward Valgarde, you're treated to the amazing views of the cliffs of the fjord, and burning ship / bridge as you quietly slip by beneath it. The fire and water effects are nothing short of spectacular. Just a subjective observation, but I believe the graphics are more crisp and clear in Northrend than in the other areas.


 

I'm glad we waited a week to install Wrath. I was chatting with a former guildie who said she and her husband installed the day it was released, took their main 70s to Northrend, and couldn't move because of the lag. There were so many people in Northrend on that server that it crashed several times that night. Like I said, I'm glad I waited.


 

I'm not going to run to 80. It's not even going to be a brisk walk. I'm going to enjoy the trip, "smell the roses" so to speak. I'm going to enjoy the diversity of Northrend and the amazing graphics that these artists released from their minds to the benefit of all 10 million of us WoW players. Slow down, folks. Enjoy the journey.


 

On a side note, on Monday I'm going to an Otolaryngologist for an Electronystagmogram for my vertigo. To take the test, I need to go off some of my meds, primarily the anti-vertigo med I've been taking for 2 weeks. I'm a little concerned about it, since it has had only a lessening effect on my vertigo, not totally removing it. Hopefully by Monday afternoon I'll have an idea as to what is causing my vertigo and will have a course charted toward a resolution.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

MBTI? Is that the subway system?

I've been trying to think of how to do an article on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, specifically my MBTI and the specific challenges and advantages it affords me. I'm still not fully sure I've got the right thoughts here, but I'll give it a shot.


 

First, a quick review of the MBTI. MBTI consists of 4 dichotomies: Attitudes which are Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I) (how the individual focuses attention or gets energy); Functions which are Sensing (S) or iNtuition (N) (how the individual perceives or takes in information) and Thinking (T) or Feeling (F) (how the individual prefers to make decisions); and lifestyle which is Judgment (J) or Perception (P) (how the individual orients themselves to the external world). Most people cannot simply look at these definitions and come up with their type indicator. Also, the type indicator identifies a preference toward that indicator, not an inability to perform in the opposite of that dichotomy. My MBTI is INTP.


 

Let's take a quick look at my MBTI.

I – Introversion.

I prefer to be by myself. Let me clear this up right now; I CAN act extroverted. In fact, I enjoy teaching, which involves standing in front of groups of various sizes and interacting with people. Being an I is not a liability, it's a preference. At least for me. There are times when being an I can lead to it being a liability. Those times would be when the person cannot control their "I-ness" and withdraw from the public.

I find being an "I" advantageous. I can interact with people for a short time (sometimes up to eight to ten hours a day when teaching) and then go back to my "cave" to recharge myself. I've been asked a few times "How can you teach or talk to large groups if you're an introvert?" My answer is simple. When you teach a large group or speak to a large group, you are not interacting with individuals, for the most part. I find that Introversion leads to introspection, where the (NT) can feed on itself for decision making.

N – iNtuition

To me, intuition is having a realization or getting information without the benefit of the senses. Don't ask me how I know, I just do. And I'm usually right. Ask my kids about the argyle socks they got me for Christmas one year.

T – Thinking

This is how decisions are made. When I come to a decision, it is an internal thing, not an external thing. I gather all the information on the situation, then intuitively come to the decision after thinking about it. Does that make sense?

P – Perception

To me, this is my interaction with the world. For instance, I love to go to the mall; not because I like shopping. I HATE shopping. But I do enjoy watching the world go by me; watching people. Not "girl watching", but looking at how people interact with each other, what other people like, and look like. I like looking at the world, but sometimes I wonder if the world likes me watching all the time!


 

Let me quote Wikipedia because they do a better job of explaining than I do:

INTP types are quiet, thoughtful, analytical individuals who don't mind spending long periods of time on their own, working through problems and forming solutions. They are very curious about systems and how things work, and are frequently found in careers such as science, architecture and law. INTPs tend to be less at ease in social situations and the "caring professions," although they enjoy the company of those who share their interests. They also tend to be impatient with the bureaucracy, rigid hierarchies, and politics prevalent in many professions, preferring to work informally with others as equals.[8]

INTPs organize their understanding of any topic by articulating principles, and they are especially drawn to theoretical constructs. Having articulated these principles for themselves, they can demonstrate remarkable skill in explaining complex ideas to others in simple terms, especially in writing. On the other hand, their ability to grasp complexity may also lead them to provide overly detailed explanations of "simple" ideas, and listeners may judge that the INTP makes things more difficult than they are. This to the INTP, however, is incomprehensible: They are merely presenting all of the information.[8]

INTPs' extraverted intuition often gives them a quick wit, especially with language, and they can defuse the tension in gatherings by comical observations and references. They can be charming, even in their quiet reserve, and are sometimes surprised by the high esteem in which their friends and colleagues hold them.[8]

When INTPs feel insulted, however, they may respond with sudden and crushing criticism. After such an incident, INTPs are likely to be as bewildered as the recipient. They have broken the rules of debate and exposed their raw emotions. This to an INTP is the crux of the problem: their emotions are to be dealt with in a logical manner. If improperly handled, they can only harm.[9]


 

The first time I took the Myers-Briggs test, I was amazed at how well it described me. That was in 1992. I've taken it 3 other times since that time, and still came up with the same type indicator, so I'm quite sure it's correct. I'm told you can change your MBTI, but it can take a "significant emotional event" to make that change. So far, I'm still an INTP.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Unboxing pix

I will admit, this is a little odd, but here's my unboxing pix for the new notebook.



Nice box. One of the things I noticed was the nice carry handle. Ooo. Also, there's the 15% restocking fee sticker. Hmmm. Is that really a deterrent?



Yes, it's the HP Pavilion dv3510nr.


Hmm, there doesn't seem to be much in that box, there. Is it all there?


Well, it looks like it's all there. Lots of instruction manuals (that I won't read), a replacement insert for the DVD drive (why would you take out the DVD drive?), and a cute little remote (lower right). Come to find out, the remote will work with PowerPoint, but it's IR, not RF, so it has limitations. The zipper bag center bottom is holding a piece of cloth to clean the metallic exterior of the notebook. The battery is wrapped in bubble wrap (second from the left.

Here's everything unwrapped. There is a mimimum amount of trash, and most of it is "green".


To be honest, I don't get the "unboxing" thing. Unless it's Christmas or something.

New Notebook review and more on Wrath

Well, I've been using my new notebook a lot lately. I've gotten rather attached to it. I'm enjoying it very much. Here's some info:

  1. I like the screen. I read a few reviews of the notebook, and I agree with one of them about the screen. You can back the screen backlight down significantly and the screen is still bright enough to use. And the good news is, that uses less power.
  2. The keyboard is smooth, "clicky" and responsive.
  3. The 64-bit version of Vista provided me with some interesting issues; I needed to find the 64-bit drivers for all my printers. Just a minor inconvenience, really.
  4. My remote connection to work is different than before, but works very well; more smoothly and faster than on my older convertible tablet.

    I have to admit, I have been an early adopter. The notebook or actually convertible tablet I replaced with this notebook is three years old. When I got it, I really thought the tablet functionality would be indispensible. The truth is, I rarely used it. It was a cool toy, but it was more functional as a notebook than a tablet.

  5. This notebook is very light compared to most of the notebooks / laptops I have had. I really liked my Sony Vaio from five or six years ago, but like my brother said, it was a battle pig. A heavy desktop replacement system with a full-fledged P4 chip in it, heat and all! Boy did that sucker blow out some hot air; reminded me of a session of congress!
  6. Battery life is good. I haven't run it dead yet, but I've been getting about 2 hours on a charge, draining down to about 35%. That's about 2 hours of normal use, not watching a DVD. I haven't tried that yet, but maybe later this week.
  7. Sound is good. Great for the size of the speakers, I guess.

Bottom line, it's a nice notebook, and worth the $1100 it cost. Next thing to try would be adding memory to it (upgradeable to 8GB).


 

Now a WoW update. We have our copies of Wrath of the Lich King, but we haven't installed them yet. I know, I know, DO IT ALREADY! Well, I've been playing my level 58 warlock to get him up and around in Outland. But do you know what the problem is? Too many Death Knights! Oh my, they're EVERYWHERE! How about letting people finish some quests UNMOLESTED, please! No we don't need your help. Just go away and be overpowered somewhere else, while Warlocks are getting nerfed. I think we'll install WotLK tonight.


 

Along those same lines, some of my old guildies split off during one of our slack times in the game and started their own guild. No problem. One of the wanted to be a guild master, and I completely understand. Here's the issue. We want to develop an alliance (no pun intended) between our guilds. The problem is, I can't find an addon for WoW that does this well. Some of these addons do bits and pieces, but most of them aren't working lately or haven't been updated in months. Can I develop one? Well, I'm looking into that; trying to get the toolbox together before I jump in head first. If you know of an addon for WoW that builds a combination of 2 or more guilds, please let me know!

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Notebook First Look, and More

While I've been getting my new notebook correctly configured, I've been busy with other things, too. One thing I've been playing with is IE7Pro. IE7Pro is an Internet Explorer add-on. It has lots of cool functions / abilities, and can be configured by the user. The main reason I got IE7Pro is because I can't spell and I always rely on my spell checker. But if you're putting something into IE7, there's no easy way to spell check. I would usually type in what I wanted to say, copy it all, paste it into Word, spell check it, then paste it back into IE7. That gets old REALLY fast. IE7Pro has a built-in spell checker that checks spelling in real-time, underlining the misspelled words in red (like MS Word does). Very nice, and worth the download even if that's the only feature you need. But it has other features. LOTS of other features. There's so many features that I haven't had time to even test most of them (except the spell checker, which I've tested EXTENSIVELY!). Check it out. It's worth the download. Oh, and did I mention it's FREE?


 

New laptop report: I have the unboxing pix, but I haven't published them yet. It's getting bad when you have to borrow your daughter's camera to take your unboxing pix. I have to say it's a great camera. Way too many features for the average digital photographer, but for someone who wants to make money at taking digital pix, a great starter camera. Interchangeable lenses, single lens reflex (SLR), 10 Megapixel camera. But that isn't really about the new laptop is it?


 

Well, it seems like it's going to take me forever to get this new laptop configured the way I like it. I need to move my copy of Office Pro 2007, install Microsoft Treats and Strips (Spoonerism), as my wife calls it, and still need to make sure that all the other stuff moved. But here's a quick look. The wireless works great. I haven't even tried to hard-wire it to the house network. It just works great. The Bluetooth also works well. I have connected it to my Blackberry and did a full backup in about the same amount of time it would have taken using USB. The 13.3" screen is very nice. It's a little shiny if you have direct lighting, but if you dim the backlight, it works great. I really don't know about the bronze color, though. It shows fingerprints VERY easily, but they wipe off really well with the provided cleaning cloth (yes, I said provided). The DVD writer works well, too. I just finished my system recovery disks (need to copy them and send a copy off-site for COOP purposes). The keyboard is a little slick, too. I'm used to the plastic-looking keys from my Toshiba R15 convertible tablet. I think I'll get used to the new keys, though. What I think is cool is the fact that it's running Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit, with SP1. 64-bit is nice because it will let me actually USE the 4GB of RAM expandable to 8GB. But the cool thing is the little remote control that came with it. It must be RF based, I have no idea how it works, but it does and it's cool.


 

More next week. This weekend I won't be doing much geek stuff. We have a guest speaker coming to our church, Mr. Edward Fudge. He'll be speaking about leadership in the first century church. It should be interesting. I may have some time on Saturday afternoon, but that may be taken up by going to Best Buy and getting the copy of WotLK I have pre-ordered. Yes, I'll have it before Christmas. Well, maybe. I haven't actually discussed it with my wife yet, so it may end up under the tree sometime next month. Hmmmm. I wonder what it would take to keep that from happening.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quick Update

I just wanted to give you a quick update. I now am the proud owner of an HP dv3510nr notebook. I hope to do an unboxing tonight if I can handle it, so I'll snap some pix and post them up for you all. I also may do a quick look at our new Sony BDP S350 Blu-Ray player and DVD up convert. Man, I hope I have an HDMI cable laying around somewhere. Now where was that . . .?

The Geeky Way to Pick a Notebook

As promised, I said I would share some of my geekiness tricks with you. Well, that's not exactly what I said, but anyway, here we go.


 

I'm shopping for a new laptop/notebook/netbook. I decided there are a few criteria that need to be met by this new mobile computing station.

  1. It needs to be light
  2. It needs to be small enough to carry around in my "manbag". (no link on the manbag because Wilsons Leather doesn't carry it any more)
  3. It needs to be powerful enough to do normal daily tasks quickly (as opposed to my current tablet, which I NEVER should have put Vista on).
  4. It needs to be able to use the DoD Common Access Card (CAC) because I'm working from home more often than not lately. Plus I plan to use it when I go on business trips.
  5. It should be good enough to play a few games in the off chance that I get to do that (a little WoW on the road never hurt anyone, right?)
  6. It needs to be inexpensive.

So, with those things in mind I began searching.


 

I began by looking at Eee PCs and other netbooks. A little quick research showed me that they are either underpowered XP boxes, or are running some form of Linux. While this of itself is not a problem, it makes #4 a bit of a problem. I got a copy of the CAC software for Linux from the Air Force Private Key Infrastructure (PKI) System Program Office (SPO) in San Antonio Texas. Unfortunately, the software is for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 3 or 4. This shouldn't have been a problem, but I lose interest in a problem when I bang my head against it for over 16 hours and don't come up with a solution. Not that I'm completely giving up on this, because I would love to have one of those sweet little netbooks with the 40GB Solid State Drives (SSD). But it's just too much work for the little reward.


 

Ok, so drooling aside, the Eee PCs are basically out of the running because of the CAC issue, or being underpowered as an XP box. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Vista zealot, but now that I've moved forward, I don't want to take a step back to XP land if I can avoid it.


 

So, what's next? Well, I noticed that Best Buy is doing 18 months same as cash, which is how we've bought most of our major purchases from Best Buy (or Circuit City, actually). So, that limited me to what Best Buy has in stock, either on-line or in the store. I recently decided not to go with Circuit City due to the Chapter 11 business they announced Monday; if they go out of business, it may be hard to get something serviced under the extended warrantee. Just a minor detail, really.


 

So, I put my geek hat on (as if it ever comes off) and went to work on an analysis tool. I got a lot of experience with using Microsoft Excel as an analysis tool while I was in the Air Force. It's very useful for what-if and quick-turn analyses. I decided I would list all the notebook / laptop systems listed on the Best Buy web site in my spreadsheet; then I associated all the detailed information about those systems, like how much RAM, what processor (CPU), what graphics processor (GPU), size of screen, size of disk, type of disk, optical disk type, weight, etc. Then came the tricky part; how do you convert that raw data into an objective number? Well, I played with a few formulae, then settled on one for each of the components I was looking at. After about 7 hours of work, I had all the information in the spreadsheet and a number associated with each notebook, identifying its relative score. But how do I put my personal bias on that number? How do I tell the sheet what's important to me?


 

I came up with a weighting scheme to influence the outcome based on my desires. Don't get me wrong, I didn't reverse engineer the outcome. I simply made sure the scoring system for each attribute was a value between 0 and 1, then multiplied that value by a relative weighting based on my desires. I even used data from another web site that lists benchmarks for CPUs and GPUs to generate the values for those attributes, so it completely removed my bias until I put my weights on the scores.


 

So, what laptop came up on top? The HP DV3510nr was the winner. It has a 13.3 inch screen, weighs less than 5 pounds, has a decent battery life, a good GPU, and has 4GB of RAM, expandable to 8GB with the 64 bit version of Vista. I expect to make my purchase soon, so I'll give you a first look review, and maybe an set of unboxing pix, too.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Don’t Screw This Up

I've been rolling this around in my head since Wednesday morning, and I need to write it down, but I don't want it to sound bad, so that's why I'm just posting this now.


 

As long as Barack Obama is the first African American president of the United States, we as a nation will have achieved nothing. WAIT, KEEP READING!


 

George Washington was the first president of the United States. That's all you have to say. Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president. Some presidents are not well known, like John Tyler or Franklin Pierce. Some are well known for what they did before or after they were president, like Theodore Roosevelt. Some are known for what they had done to them while they were in office, like James Carter (I just can't call a president Jimmy. It sounds like something you put on ice cream) or William Clinton.


 

So what's my point? As long as we refer to a person by their genetic heritage, we cheapen that person's accomplishments by putting them into a box with everyone else who has the same genetic heritage. Let me give you an example from my life (please don't think I'm comparing my experiences with anyone else, this is just my experience.)


 

I am from a large family; five brothers and two sisters, to be precise. Our dad is very well known in the small town and surrounding small towns where I grew up. Having worked in the paper mill, the main source of income for most people in that area, my dad had the opportunity to meet many people (plus the paper mill was in the town he grew up in, and people had much more stable living and working arrangements back then). Because of the strong genetic traits my dad passed on, we all pretty much look like him to a great extent. Because of that, my brothers and I were easily recognizable by everyone in town. I would often hear "that's one of Ralphie's boys", or "You're one of Raplhie's boys, aren't you?" I don't mind being referred to as being one of Ralphie's boys, because it's true. However, I have accomplishments of my own that exceed that of the "random chance" of one in a few million sperm meeting up with an egg one night when my dad's jeans were hanging over the end of the bed (there's a story behind that, but it's longer than this). I am more than the sum of my genetic makeup.


 

I'm quite sure that Barack Obama is more than the sum of his genetic makeup as well.


 

I'm also sure that by now most of the people who know me well as the conservative republican evangelical Christian that I am are scratching their head wondering why I'm not upset that Obama won the election. After spending more than 20 years in the military, I'm used to experiencing leadership changes that I was not particularly keen on. I've had many bad examples for bosses, and bosses' bosses, etc. But just because changes didn't go the way you (or I) wanted, doesn't mean that everyone shouldn't be given every opportunity to fail or succeed on their own.


 

I saw a front page of the Chicago Reader on the Fox News today. It had a drawing of Barack Obama on it with a banner underneath that said "Don't screw this up". I think that's the best one yet. If Barack Obama screws this up, he'll be relegated to the position of being the first African American president, and nothing will have changed. However, if he does amazing things (and he'll have many opportunities to do just that) everything will have changed. And he will be the 44th president of the United States. His being an African American will be a footnote in history.


 

 

Whining, Storm and WotLK (prep)

I haven't written anything in a while. Mostly because I haven't felt well lately. So let me whine for a while. If you don't want to deal with my whining, come back later and I'll post something technical.


 

I'm still recovering from my Microdiscectomy back in August. Lately I've been felling more pain at the incision, but not the incision, if that makes any sense. I've also been feeling some of the "lighter" aspects of the sciatica again in my left leg. Tingling, sort of like when your leg fell asleep and you're getting the blood flow back in there, but not as intense. I'm thinking some of the feelings in my leg may have something to do with the physical therapy, since the workout for my left leg is harder (although the same) than my right leg.


 

OK, tech stuff. Looks like the Blackberry Storm will be coming out on Verizon Wireless sometime this month, but no word as to when. Boy Genius Report is saying the Storm will start pre-selling at Best Buy. And the Verizon Wireless site has changed for the Storm, but no official date for release. And BGR is saying $200 to $300 for the Storm. Not bad, but a little high. (and that's with a 2 year contract). I'm really enjoying my crackberry Curve, but sure would like one of those shiny new Storm thingies on my belt (geek glee squeal).


 

World of Warcraft news: Wrath of the Lich King comes out on the 13th (1 week!). Not sure if I'll get it on release, or later on (maybe for Christmas?). But the changes to WoW in general have been interesting. After patch 3.0.2 we all got a free re-spec, but I just stayed with what I had for spec. I'm not sure, but it seems like my two level 70s are getting better DPS rates. And when I have my hunter in Aspect of the Cobra, my mana never drops below 98%. But I only do 60% base damage (that drops my DPS down to about 295 or so), but in Aspect of the Hawk, I can go through 3 or 4 level 70 / 71 mobs before my mana is down to 25%, at which point I switch back to Aspect of the Cobra for 1 mob, and I'm back up to 100% again. I do have some mana generating armor and trinkets, but I don't think that has much of an effect on it. So my 70 hunter (beastmaster spec, of course) is getting around 305 DPS with my battle pig (Spiderpig) is getting around 113 DPS and I rarely break agro on Spiderpig. Now, my Fury Warrior (Garden, the Gnome) is getting around 340DPS! Not bad considering I haven't done an instance with Garden since hitting around 50 something (I got my Carrot on a Stick on my last instance, if that tells you anything). I've also been working on my Warlock FransisII (the second, but I can't put a space in the name, so he looks like a sisii). He's up to level 56, almost 57, and using my Imp as a mana battery (thanks, Steven) I can go from mob to mob quite easily as long as I don't get 2 or 3 at a time. And I officially HATE undead because I can't fear them. L My goal is to get FransisII to Outland this week. I'll drag him through Outland and on to Northrend later. I know I've said this before, but I'm an altaholic. And I've been foolishly ignoring all my horde toons, mostly because Garden is my main, darn it, and he should get the most of my time. Oh, and I need 4500 gold to learn to ride my epic mount. Speaking of epic mounts, engineering is not getting a lot of love lately. I have no real useful patterns any more. But I may just start making stuff to sell (since I need the gold, I only have 3k).


 

So, if I (we) get WotLK on release or early for Christmas, I'll write up a quick review for you. And if you get it before me, let me know.


 

Tomorrow I'll write up my analysis tool I came up with to review laptops based on user requirements. And hopefully the world will stop spinning around my head long enough for me to get a glass of water.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Phil the Geek

I'm getting tired of hearing of people referred to by their first name and their profession. Joe the Plumber; Tito the Builder; John the Senator; Sarah the Governor; please, people. Enough already!


 

This has gone too far. I hope that the next 6 days can at least be civil.


 

I'm seeing a lot of mainstream media outlets around the world talking about riots after the election. If that happens, no matter who wins, the US will have a big black eye to deal with in the world opinion. We've made a peaceful transfer of power for over 200 years, why would this year be any different? I know the ideology on both sides is so far apart you could park 30 busses between them. But no one is saying the other group has to ride in the back of the bus.


 

I know, things don't change overnight, but it's been over forty years, people. We're all from one race; the human race. Accept it and move on. No one is better than anyone else just because of who their parents are. We all start in the same place and have to make a name for ourselves.


 

I'm impressed by Obama, and I'm equally impressed by McCain. They have both achieved things that most people will never do. Good on both of them. May the best man win.


 

Here's my recommendation and you can take it or leave it. You can do one of three things in the next six days: 1. educate yourself and vote with your head; 2. Listen to all the propaganda from both sides and vote with your emotion; or 3. don't vote. I plan to do the first one, and if things don't work out the way I want them to, oh well. It's not like I'm going to emigrate just because the party I chose lost. But if you do the third one and you are allowed to vote, don't complain if the person you wanted didn't get elected.


 

And yes, I'm Phil the Geek and I approved this message.

The Storm’s a-commin! (I hope)

OK, so I've been watching all the traffic on the 'net about the new Blackberry that's coming out. Verizon wireless will carry the Storm when it's released. But when will it be released?


 

This phone is supposed to be Verizon's iPhone killer. It does look cool; no keyboard like the normal blackberry, no trackball or wheel. It's a nice looking phone. All the reviews are positive. So come on! Release it already!!!


 

OK, I have to admit I have an ulterior motive here. I got my Blackberry Curve in the first week of this month. Verizon Wireless has a 30 guarantee; so if the Storm comes out within the 30 period of when I got my phone, I can exchange my Curve for a Storm (plus a piece of change, I'm sure). Maybe I'm being greedy. So be it. I would love to be able to try out this phone and let you all know what it's like. BGR said on September 4th that the release would be delayed 3 to 4 weeks, but when will that be? Who knows? As soon as I hear something, I'll let you all know.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Netbook, anyone?

I want to get some sort of notebook / netbook computer. Something that's easy to move around with, will fit in my "manbag", and will actually do some processing. I haven't had the chance to play with any of these new systems based on the Intel Atom chip. I've read lots of reviews, and most of them are positive. So, what am I looking for? Well, something with enough memory to multi task, enough disk space to work in, a keyboard big enough for my hands, and multiple choices for connection to a network. I know, that's nebulous, but the "hard" numbers will vary based on the OS and the processor chip. One thing I don't need is the ability to play 3D graphic games (although it would be nice J).


 

I'll be honest, I looked at the Eee PC 1000; that's the one with the 40GB SSD drive (well, a 32GB SSD and a built in 8GB high speed SD really). Just the thought of the only moving part being the hinge on the netbook is cool. But will it be useful? One of the usefulness issues I run into is the government Common Access Card or CAC for remote access. Since I'm supporting a US Federal Government contract, if I'm going to work remotely, I need to be able to use my CAC to get access. I've tried to get the CAC reader to work on my Fedora 8 box to no avail. So, a Linux based system has limited utility for me, even though it would carry serious cool points. I could get this netbook and put XP on it. I've heard that works OK, but just the thought of putting XP onto a wonderful little Linux box seems sacrilegious. (I always knew that OS choice was a religious matter).


 

OK, so the Eee PC 1000 may not work off the shelf. What else is out there? Well, I think the MSI Wind in one of its various forms may work. It would need the 6-cell battery for longer life. It would also need a decent sized drive. The newer version has a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, and 802.11b,g, and n, and Bluetooth. Lots of great ways to get connected. They also come with 120GB or 160GB hard drives (but they have the real spinning platters, not just electrons jumping around). Even though the MSI Wind is more expensive than the Eee PC, I'm leaning that way because of the features.


 

What about other venders? To be honest, there are more netbook venders out there, but these two seem to be the ones "leading the charge" for netbooks.


 

Enough about hardware, what about the software on a netbook? Well, you have a few choices. Some of the netbooks with more horsepower actually have the Microsoft Office Suite installed on them. To be honest, I think MS office needs too much RAM and CPU to be running on something that's supposed to be light and agile. It's more likely I would use OpenOffice, even if the netbook is running on XP. OpenOffice is a fully featured office suite that will ingest MS Office products and also save in that format.


 

Other software on a Windows XP netbook would be some kind of mapping software and a GPS (I HATE getting lost), some kind of communication tool (or web-based email), and something to keep me busy when I'm not doing anything important (read "game").


 

If anyone out there in the great Internets has any comments or suggestions, let me know!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Not about the election

Not about the election. Not about the election. Not about the election.

I promise. Not about the election. I've heard too much.

Here's some info you won't get from watching the news: TwitterBerry has released version 0.8. It has a new look, and seems to be more stable, and maybe a little tad bit faster.

One of my part-time projects is a home media server. Let me explain what's on my network before I continue. I have two old TiVo model 2s, 40 hours each. (a side note for later, InstantCake and a new drive!). I also have many PCs running both XP and Vista, a network attached Brother MFC-420CN multi-function printer, an old HP LaserJet 4000n with duplexing, and to top it off, my Fedora 8 Linux box.

My Fedora box is an old Systemax custom build that has become what I lovingly call a Frankenputer (computer from multiple bits and pieces, like Frankenstein's monster). It's got an AMD Athlon™ 64 Processor 3000+ with 2GB RAM (Barnabas). It was my main computer before I replaced it with my newish Gateway GM5664 with an AMD Phenom™ 9600 Quad-core Processor @ 2.3GHz with 3GB RAM (Gateway). I'm running Fedora 8 32 bit version on Barnabas; why not the 64bit version? I couldn't get some of the printer drivers to work in Fedora 8 64 bit, so I re-installed the 32 bit version.

So, like I was saying, I have 2 TiVos on the network, and I have the Home Media Option, so they can see each other, and I can move shows from one TiVo to another. The problem was, shows would be deleted before I had time to watch them (because I was doing other things, like playing World of Warcraft). So I was missing shows, like Big Bang Theory (best geek show on TV, ever). I always seem to lose Monday nights and miss BBT. What's a geek to do?! I know that TiVo has TiVo Desktop, but I don't want to deal with the lag.

Galleon is the answer. What is Galleon (other than a Spanish sailing ship)? I'll quote their website, but you really should check it out.

Galleon is a free open source media server for the TiVo® DVR which allows you to enjoy many kinds of content and interactive applications right on your TV. The server runs on your home computer and organizes your media collection so that they can be viewed on your home network. Galleon also brings Internet content and applications to your TV.

Galleon is written in Java, which is cool, and that makes it PORTABLE! It doesn't need to be on a Linux box, or a Windows box, or whatever. If you have a JRE, you can run Galleon.

What can you do with Galleon? Another quote from their website:

Now THAT'S Cool! I'm not doing too much with Galleon yet, but I'm pulling specific shows off my TiVos and storing them on Barnabas. So many, in fact, that my 500GB of storage is getting full!

Let me put this in writing. I LOVE GALLEON. It's a great application, brilliantly executed, and extensible.

Now the strange part: I want to compare it to Windows Server Home. Here's my problem. I don't have the cash for a copy of the software. I know there are third party software tools for WSH that provide TiVo archival, PC backup/archival, and other tools.

If anyone can get me the software, or maybe someone at HP who has a really nice WSH box I can test?


Friday, October 17, 2008

BumpTop βeta

Interesting article in Lifehacker this morning in the featured desktop category. Gina Trapani writes about BumpTop, a desktop interface replacement for Windows. It looks cool. I haven't tried it for two reasons: first, it's a closed beta; second, I haven't had time yet!

What are the basics? Well, it looks like it takes the desktop paradigm a step beyond where Microsoft has taken it. It's a 3D style desktop with the ability to stack icons in "Tidy Stacks" and "Untidy Stacks". Sort of like my real desk. However, it doesn't look like it uses my standard organization technique; the old stuff is on the bottom and the new stuff is on the top.

Seriously, this doesn't make sense to me for a desktop. It does, however, make sense to me as a filing system. You don't really do long-term storage on your desktop, but you do in your filing cabinet. I try to keep the number of icons on my desktop to a minimum (although, there is a LOAD of stuff on top of my real, physical desk, both at home and at work). I'm not saying BumpTop doesn't have some cool features; it does. Grouping, stacking, organizing, pinning things to the wall, etc. I like the paradigm, but I don't see any utility as a desktop, as I said.

If you're interested in BumpTop, check out their website, and you can follow them on Twitter.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Random strange thoughts and observations:

  1. Hearing a pager playing "The Sound of Silence"
  2. Cell phones with the '70s style phone bell sound
  3. McDonalds is doing Monopoly again. Didn't that use to be in the spring?
  4. Traffic is always worse when you're running late
  5. Traffic is always light when you're running early
  6. No matter which line you stand in when checking out at a store, the other line moves faster
  7. #6 even applies if you're standing in the express lane
  8. People hold doors open for you if you have a cane
  9. People look at you funny if you're in a wheel chair and you stand up and walk away
  10. Some people will never pay attention, even if you hit them with a cane
  11. The foul rule in basketball always applies if you are handicapped: if they even get close to you, fall down
  12. No matter how hard it is raining or how cold the rain is, you can't run with a cane
  13. Cold rain makes sore back muscles tighten up REALLY BAD
  14. You know you're getting old when you lose hair from where it should be and grow hair where it shouldn't be
  15. Sometimes you get crushed ice even when it's set on cubed
  16. No matter how hard you try, you can't bend a potato chip (wet doesn't count! That's not bending)
  17. There are rules to shotgun
  18. Some movies will never make sense, but will always be interesting
  19. Dogs are almost always happy to see you, even if they belong to someone else
  20. Dogs look strange when inverted
  21. Even cats can be funny sometimes

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don’t drive and text

I've been hearing and reading a lot about this new software feature that will be available for cell phones sometime next year that makes it so you can't call or text if you're driving. It uses the built-in GPS to detect movement at speeds you can't achieve on foot (unless you paid $6M for new legs), then notifies your carrier to push all incoming calls to voicemail. It also blocks texting in both directions. Cool idea, but it doesn't stop you from trying. And what if you're on a train? Or a passenger in a car? Or a taxi? The software has a "passenger" mode that will allow normal operation.

Do you see anything wrong with this picture? All I have to do is lie to my phone, and I'm just as distracted as before. No problem. Whatever happened to common sense? Besides not being common. I don't see this as being a $10 well spent. I don't text and drive; I use my Bluetooth hands-free headset when I talk on the phone (which some have said is just as dangerous as holding the phone up to your ear, but I don't agree). I also consider myself a safe driver. What we have here is just another excuse to blame our problems on someone else.

Listen people; no one is making you use your cell phone while you're driving. You're doing it yourself. You're making a choice; and a bad one. Driving is NOT an easy thing to do, even though I've been doing it for about 30 years now (holy cow! I AM getting old!). Even without cell phones I see people every day doing stupid things while driving: putting on make-up (women), shaving (men), reading the newspaper, reading a novel, watching the kids fight in the back seat, trying to pick up CDs from the floor. Some things need to be done at home, but some things can't be helped. Even before I had a cell phone I have driven distracted (see the part on watching the kids fight in the back seat).

It all comes down to knowing what's going on around you. Situational Awareness or SA (military term). If you have SA, you're good. You know that the car behind you is following at an unsafe distance; you know that the motorcycle in front of you is being stupid and swerving in and out of lanes and using the dividing line as his own lane; you can see the people around you in their cars that are oblivious to the fact that other cars are around them.

Ok. I'm done ranting, I think.

This piece of software is a cool piece of technology, but it is useless without SA. Yeah, it's nice and all, but it's like putting a lock on the liquor cabinet. If I know where the key is and I'm weak, I can still open it. Just exercise a little self control and go buy yourself lunch with the $10.

Monday, October 13, 2008

WoW Version 3.0.2 will drop tomorrow?

Well, all the evidence points to version 3.0.2 of World of Warcraft dropping tomorrow during "Patch Tuesday". Maybe I'm a little old school, but why do I have to re-spec my toons every time you guys drop a major revision? I haven't really been reading the posts (yeah, I know. Read The Fine Manual) but it's going to take me some time to decide how I want this free re-spec to work out.

Like I said before, I'm an altaholic, so I have lots of re-specing to do. Maybe I should just start with the easy ones, like Garden, the Fury warrior. That should be easy. Or maybe I should just wait and study up a little before I jump in with both feet.

Or maybe I'm just tired and over reacting. That's most likely.

I'm moving into wait-and-see mode here and we'll see what 3.0.2 brings (kind of like waiting for Santa and wondering if I'll get a good present or coal. At least I can burn the coal to stay warm).

Digsby, anyone?

I've been using Digsby for several months now.

What is Digsby? Well, it's a unified IM, email notification and social networking tool.

Do you use AIM, Yahoo, MSN, GoogleTalk, ICQ (really, who still uses ICQ?)? Tired of having all those programs sucking up your available memory? What about all those email addresses that are associated with your IM tools? And on top of that Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Digsby gracefully pulls all these disparate tools together in one convenient tool. You can have all your buddy lists tied together, and chat with anyone on any of your networks. You can be notified of emails, or updates on your social networks.

I really like Digsby. It's clean, well organized, and easy to use. It is relatively small (I'm running at 27,700k right now, according to Task Manager). What would I like to see? I'd like to see Digsby pull in Skype functionality. Voice and Video chat would be a nice touch. But if that increases the memory footprint, I would rather just see it left out.

Next time I'll chat a little about Vista. And no, I didn't drink the Kool-Aid. Vista has good and bad points.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

ObjectDock, WofLK, Ruby Tuesday

I've been playing with a "new" tool lately for windows. It's Stardoc's
ObjectDock. Well, at least I thought it was new. Once I went to the web site, I thought it looked a little familiar. Now I'm remembering where I've seen it before; OS2! Does anyone out there even remember OS2? Remember, I said I like to be on the bleeding edge of technology? Well that was the bleeding edge way back in 1994! Wow. I guess I am old!

OS/2 Warp was a great OS. It just couldn't cut in to Microsoft's market share even back in 1994. The world just wasn't ready for OS/2. I played with Warp for a while, but I never upgraded it to Warp 4. It was just too expensive, and not functional enough for what I needed it to do (play games). What I wouldn't give to get my hands on a copy of Warp 4 now. I bet it would run really nicely in a VM on just about any run-of-the-mill computer.

But back to ObjectDock.

I started looking at RocketDock because of a LifeHacker
article I read on it. Yeah, it's OS-X like, but it actually has some nice features that the default "Start Bar" doesn't have in Windows. First, I have near total control over the configuration. I say "near total" because it was some of the limitations that pushed me to ObjectDock. The primary one was that you couldn't make a stacking tray item without updating it every time you restarted RocketDock. (If you know how to get this to work in Vista, I'm all ears). ObjectDock will load a stack of icons from a folder quite easily. There are a few bugs to work out on it, but I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

Gaming

Well, Wrath of the Lich King comes out in about a month. I've been playing World of Warcraft and the Burning Crusade for some time now. My main (on Rexxar) is a 70 Gnome Warrior Engineer named "Garden". To be honest, I was surprised that name was available. Garden is the GuildMaster for the Lolli Pop guild. Yeah, well, I was on a Wizard of Oz kick that day. I have another 70 in Lolli pop; Gooddryad. I would say she's my primary alt, but that wouldn't be true. You can have 10 "toons" on a server, and, well, I've filled up my space on Rexxar. I'm an altaholic. (And all my Horde are on Ysera; Tekki is my main Hordie).

There is a reason for my great desire to play so many different types of toons. I'm constantly curious, and It's interesting for me to try out different ways of doing the same thing. For example, hunters can solo quite well, because of their pet. Warlocks, also can solo well. However, it's hard to solo as a priest. You get your butt handed to you on a plate quite often. As for pet-less soloing, rogues, druids, and shaman would be my choice. I have soloed with a mage and warrior, but it takes MUCH longer and can be more frustrating that it is fun.

I've been working mostly on my Alliance 70s lately, because I want to get ready for WotLK. That expansion will push the level cap to 80 and add much new land to explore. It should be fun.

People have asked me how I got into WoW. I'll leave that to another day. I'm just trying to pace myself with this blogging.

By the way, if you follow me on Twitter (twitter.com/PhilStratton), I went to Ruby Tuesday today for lunch. They've really changed the place. New menus, new décor, everything. It looks good. And the Bison Bacon Cheese Burger was GREAT. It was well done, but not burnt, no pink (pink is bad for hamburgers) and done quickly. I'll wait on final judgment until I've been there a few more times, but as of right now, 3 ½ stars, at least.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What do you believe?

Here's an interesting exercise for you: write down your beliefs so you can explain them to someone else.

Sure, it sounds simple doesn't it? It took me about an hour, but I've been mulling it over in my head for about two hours before that. I don't know how concise or easy to understand they are, but I've done it. I reserve the right to change my belief statement, but I doubt my beliefs will change.

I never really thought about how powerful a belief statement is. Not only does it lay your soul bare before everyone, it makes you vulnerable. I don't like being vulnerable. But here it is.

I Believe:

  • in God, the Almighty, Father, creator of all that is
  • in His son Jesus who is the Christ, Messiah (Prophet, Priest & King) for all
  • Jesus' birth was a miracle, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to a virgin
  • Jesus lived as a man, but was fully God
  • Jesus took my place and died on a cross for my sins
  • Jesus rose from the grave on the third day
  • Jesus went up to heaven and is seated at God's right hand
  • Jesus sent the Holy Spirit as a Comforter
  • Baptism (immersion) is for the remission of my sins, as Jesus commanded
  • I am a new man because of my acceptance of the free gift of salvation
  • I received the Holy Spirit as a gift from God, and that part of God lives in me
  • The Holy Spirit intercedes for me when I don't have the ability
  • I do not, nor can I ever deserve salvation from my sins
  • All will be judged by Christ before God on the last day
  • None of this can be explained rationally or logically but must be accepted by faith

Yeah, it's sort of like the Apostle's Creed. That's not because I plagiarized it, it's because we believe the same things.

So, what do you believe? Do you drive your beliefs or do your beliefs drive you?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Are you an early adopter?

I have this problem. No, really, it's a problem. I am . . . an early adopter.

I like to live on the bleeding edge of technology. Or at least close to it.

I started playing with Linux in 1992 with kernel version 0.9.
I got my TiVo in 2001 (I think, I can’t really remember J).
I got my hybrid car (Honda Insight) in 2002.
I got my Tablet PC (Toshiba Satellite R15) in 2005.

Ok, I’m not ALWAYS an early adopter. I just got my Crackberry last Sunday. But I had a reason. You see, Verizon is supposed to be coming out with the Blackberry Storm soon. How soon? Who knows? I’m gambling on it coming out within the next 30 days so I can trade in my Curve for it.

The Storm is supposed to be Verizon’s iPhone killer. I don’t know. Maybe. I’ll reserve judgment until I get to play with one.

I will say, I like my Curve. I like having Internet access in my pocket. And now I’m getting addicted to Twitter. Like I said, it’s got a weird feeling to it, almost STALKER weird. But it’s cool to be connected to people even when you can’t talk to them. If you use Twitter and have a Blackberry, try TwitterBerry. It’s basic, but gets the job done.

Another cool thing I just did recently was not really by choice. Since we’ve been doing a little work on the house lately, we were turning off circuits so we could put in a new outlet in an unfinished room. Well, during the process, my Series 2 died. I think the drive finally died. It lived a good life; at least 5 years old. But I bought a new drive from TigerDirect, and then got InstantCake. Cool program. Burn a CD with the InstantCake ISO file, boot from that CD with your new drive as the Master on the Primary PATA IDE channel, make a few choices and “Bob’s your uncle”, you’ve got a new TiVo drive. Quick, easy, and effective. So the drive I got was a huge 750GB drive for about $150 plus shipping. Now I have a 1000 hour TiVo. Not that I need that much space, but I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Again, I'm trying!

OK, let's try this again.

It's been a few years since I've put anything here. I had actually forgotten about this until last night, when I signed up on Twitter (twitter.com/PhilStratton).

Twitter is an interesting concept. Mini blogs about what's going on right now in your life. But is it useful? Well, maybe. Is it strange? It can be. Here's an example.

I almost felt like a stalker. I'm following Cali Lewis. Not that way. On Twitter. Cali is the host of GeekBriefTV. Yeah, it's a lot of Mac stuff, but she's a good host. I started following her, and now she has added me to her list that she is following. It just feels odd. But in an informational way. I'll see how long this Twitter thing lasts for me.

Back to this blog. I'll try to keep politics out of it, but with the election going on, it'll be hard. There are just too many questions in my mind right now. I can't think straight. Maybe I should just come back in a few hours after my coffee kicks in.