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.


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 (, 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 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.