Saturday Jan 26, 2008

Goodbye manuals, welcome back memories

    I've been a pack rat since I was old enough to think something was mine. I also have what I call an overactive Boy Scout gland, i.e. I'm always trying to be prepared for even the most unlikely circumstances. One aspect of this tendency is my feeling like there is never enough time, so I want to be ready to do something productive if I suddenly find myself with a few extra moments. Most of my friends find it handy to have me around, because I usually have the item they need at hand. For me though, it can be frustrating to try to carry so much stuff, or other wise keep it at hand.

    Having been in the computer industry for 25+ years, and in my poorer days having lusted for more computer stuff, I've keep a lot of manuals, etc, in case I or someone else needed them. Even within the last few years, as I decided I didn't really need them, I felt someone out there might need them or want them. I still haven't found any reasonably easy way to find someone who wants them, and as most of them are for software, etc that is over 10 years old, it is unlikely that anyone wants them anyway. So, my collection of old BeyondMail, WinRules, Banyan Vines, Banyan Intelligent Messaging, Novel MHS, FTP Software TCP/IP, Lotus Notes, Microsoft Windows 3.1, MS DOS, old 68k Mac manuals, etc is finally going away. I'm recycling them in the paper recycling pickup here at home.

    It has taken a while to let go, and now I am comfortable saying goodbye to most of the old manuals. I may keep a memento or two, at least for a little while longer, but I'm feeling pretty good about shedding these pounds. If someone somewhere wanted them, keep hope, there may be another like me who still has old manuals. Actually, I'm quite impressed by how easy it has been lately to let go of stuff I've held onto for decades. It feels good, and I'm sure I won't miss them. I am taking a few pictures to remember my past neurosis'.

    In the process of cleaning up, which getting rid of the manuals has been part of, I have been reminded of some fond memories. Sun Microsystems has seen it's share of changes over the years, and I have made many friends at Sun over my 10 years. I started during the hey day of the dot com boom, and was part of a pretty close group of pre-sales engineers. We 'lived' in a section of cubicles we called Gomerville, and had many fun times. We also went through a cleaning, when the Boston area sales office moved from New England Executive Park to the then new Sun Campus.

    As part of that move, we took the opportunity to shed some pounds, including many old manuals. Some of them, like some of the ones I have been shedding now, had wire binders, which with a small amount of effort, you could pull out of the manual. This left you with a long wavy wire, and a lot of loose pages you could then put in the paper recycling. What to do with the wire was another question. I've been throwing mine away, but one of the creative lads at Sun during our move actually created a wire man. This objet d'art hung around his cube for several weeks until the final move, and was quite interesting. I might have considered doing something similarly artistic with my current wire, but I don't even want extra art hanging around. Besides, maybe when I'm ready for some wire art, I can find someone out there with manuals they want to get rid of. \^_\^

Friday Jan 25, 2008

Boston Science Fiction Marathon

    Boston is famous for many things, including tea parties, the USS Constitution, the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots. It's also famous for the Boston Marathon, a 26.2 mile jaunt through the burbs which I ran as a bandit in 1992. Don't ask me why, as I don't do things I like for 4.5 hours non-stop, so I still haven't figured out why I ran for that long, particularly after training by running around the freezing Charles River all winter. Perhaps working in Cambridge and living in Pawtucket, RI does strange things to you, or the commute gives your mind way too much time.

    I have much fonder memories of my participation in Boston's other marathon, the Boston Science Fiction Marathon, which is a 24-hour escape from reality in a movie theatre in Somerville, MA. Yup, 24-hours, from Noon Sunday to Noon Monday of President's day weekend, of science fiction movies both old and new. Interspersed between movies is some live entertainment, breaks for caffeine refills and bathroom trips, and socializing, such as it is, with other sci-fi fans. The list of movies for this year is starting to flesh out, and I'm getting psyched.

    I was first introduced to the BSFM by my brother-in-law many years ago. He had been going for several years, with many friends. He kept it up while he was local, and even came back to Boston from the midwest a time or two. I joined him for 3-4 years, but now that he has a son, and lives on the West coast, it's a tad difficult for him to attend. I also gave up the marathon once my oldest was born, or shortly there after, and am looking forward to it again. I got my best friend to finally commit to going with me, although I won't be too surprised if he bags it in the end. I'm hoping to entice other friends to join me, as I know quite a few folks who like sci-fi.

    I'll admit that it has been a while, well at least since my last BSFM, that I have pulled an all nighter and I'm not as young as I used to be. Funny how that works. The BSFM was at the Coolidge Corner theatre when I used to go, and it has since gone back to it's earlier location in Somerville, so I won't even be familiar with the neighborhood. Knowing Somerville, I'm sure there will be handy amenities nearby, although knowing the crowd any local WiFi will likely get swamped. Hmmm, maybe I could do live blogging from th BSFM. Let me know what you think about that idea. :-)

    If you live in the Boston area, or will be for the President's Day weekend, I highly recommend this event. This is the 33rd running of the event, and Garen Daly does a great job, so check out the website, order your tickets, and I'll see you there.

Thursday Jan 17, 2008

VMware User Group meeting


Originally uploaded by Dr. Agonfly.

This is where I spent my day. Got the pic before practice when security moved in to protect practice from roving eyes.

Saturday Jan 12, 2008

A new laptop for 2008

    I was pleasantly surprised by what I'm calling a Christmas present from work, when I came back from winter break. Sun always has the week between Christmas and New Years as paid time off called Winter Break, and since it doesn't come out of my vacation time, I find it rather handy. And this year, 3 days into the new year, I got a call from the mailroom saying I had a laptop come in. Cool. I was expecting one, as my Toshiba Tecra M2 was getting a bit long in the tooth, was older than the 3 year depreciation schedule, and was having a few problems. Mid December, my new boss let me know that our group had determined how they were going to handle laptop updates, and that I could choose between a Tecra M9 or a MacBook Pro.

    Easy decision for me, since I had been lusting after a MacBook Pro for most of the year, as there had been a rumor in the spring about a large lease plan of MacBooks for the group I was in then, and when that didn't pan out, there was talk of a buy-what-you-want-and-we'll-reimburse-you-some-of-the-cost program in the works, which kept me dreaming of going out and buying a MacBook. The BWYWAWRYSOTC plan did come to fruition before I changed roles, but I felt it put too much risk on the employee for my taste, even with the lure of choice in hardware and ownership of it. Having let my boss know I wanted the MacBook Pro, I tried to let it slip from my mind, as I expected it to take a while to actually get processed and materialize.

    When it arrived last week, I was a bit surprised by the timing, and chomping at the bit to play with my new toy. I've seen them in other people's hands, and checked them out at the Apple store in NYC, even got teased by one over Christmas that my father-in-law bought and asked me to help get the speech recognition working better. My recommendation for him, after sounding silly repeatedly asking the computer what time it was, is to get an external mic, as the internal one is on the left under the speaker grill, and in his setup, using a beautiful, big Apple Cinema screen, the internal mic is just in probably the worst position.

    After the obligatory 1st time configuration sequence, I was up and running quickly, and really didn't need much to be productive. Of course, I started to tailor it to my preferences, downloading apps, etc., but that's mostly because I'm a stubborn old yankee who doesn't change his ways easily. :-) I'm sure this will be the first of several blogs on my new MacBook, so I'll try to keep this from being too long a post. Some things that are different are well done and make you think they should be more broadly adopted, but do still take getting used to. For instance, I'm used to scroll bars in Windows and Linux having little arrows for adjusting the scroll bar, and the up arrow is at the top end of the scroll bar frame and the down arrow is at the bottom. Under Mac OS X, both button are at the button, making it much more efficient to adjust, as you don't have to keep moving from end to end. Of course I still start to go to the top to adjust a scroll bar up before I remember it is right next to the down button I was just using. Old dogs, eh.

    I'm still exploring, so I'm sure there is functionality I haven't fully discovered yet. I'm really liking the widget capability. This allows you to pop up over the screen an overlay of handy little apps for doing a wide variety of things, like a calculator, clock, weather, network status, reading book, sticky notes, periodic table, dictionary, games, etc. It pops up quickly, for handy access, and I've always liked this kind of functionality in every gadget I use. Ask me how many hacks and DAs I have on my Palm T3 sometime. :-)

    There is plenty of commentary on how easy it is to use OS X, and how things just work, but until you actually use it you don't fully realize how nice and relaxing that is. I'm a geek, and I'm used to having to push and prod things to work, and more pushing and prodding to get them to work well. My experience so far with OS X has been a breath of fresh air, with out the extra effort to get everything to 'just get along'. I had been unsure about the Dashboard, from my limited encounters with OS X previously, and while I'm not convinced yet that it is the greatest thing since sliced bread, it works well, is easy to understand, and doesn't get in the way.

    I've got all my connectivity set up, with IM, Twitter, IRC keeping me in touch with folks. It was pretty durned easy to get my RAZR V3xx working via bluetooth. It synced with the address book with no trouble at all, and once I dug up the dial up details, getting a bluetooth connection for Internet connectivity was sweet. I don't even have to take my RAZR out of it's belt case to connect to the net and surf. I can even browse the files on my RAZR via Bluetooth, pulling down pics or adding MP3s. I've got Bluetooth working with my Palm T3 as well, sending files over to the T3 easily, although I don't have sending files from the T3 to the MacBook working yet, but what I have working was easier and more than I had working with Windows. I've discovered that holding down the ctrl key when using the single mouse button on the MacBook gives me right-click functionality. And I accidently discovered that ctrl-applekey-powerbutton forces the MacBook to reboot. Oooops. Turns out there is an odd looking character used in the menu hot key sequences, and I wasn't sure what key it represented, so rather than RTFM, I went exploring. Serves me right.

    OK, this is getting long, so I'll wrap by saying I love my MacBook Pro. It is a beautiful machine, incredibly engineered, and extremely easy to use right from the start. I didn't really have any concerns with my old Tecra M2, but after using this MacBook for a few days, when I went back to the M2 to offload files, it suddenly seemed antiquated, like it was from a long ago SteamPunk era. It'll still make a workable backup and OK demo machine for those times when more than 1 machine is required. Next for my MacBook Pro is comparing Parallels and VMware Fusion for Windows and Solaris on my MacBook. But that will be another post.

Thursday Jan 10, 2008

JavaOne 2008 - cool gadgets possible?

    Well, it's that time of year again. Winter is in full force, plenty of time to code, and thoughts turn to .... JavaOne. OK, for some folks. I've never actually been, but being an employee of Sun, I pay attention to the notices. I also like to do my best to stay on top of what I think are important technologies, and even some technologies that other's think are important, even if I don't. I think Java is important, but it hasn't been a significant part of my job to get me a ticket to JavaOne.

    A close friend and fellow co-worker goes pretty regularly, and I have been jealous of him at times. Why, since it's not directly related to my job and I prefer to minimize travel, at least without my family? Because they usually have cool give-aways, and sometimes really cool ones. For example, several years back they had a super special price for a Sharp Zaurus Linux PDA. OK sure, now I've bought 1 or 2 on eBay for far less, but it was new and interesting then. If I recall correctly some years before that they gave away Palm Pilots. I have no idea what may be in store for this year, but I've got to remember to tell my friend to pick one up for me if he can. :-) For those who are interested, here are the details :

\*Registration Is Now Open for the 2008 JavaOne(SM) Conference!\*

Join us for the 13th annual JavaOne(SM) conference May 6 – 9, 2008, at The Moscone Center in San Francisco. You won’t want to miss this year’s expanded program. Register today and save $200. Use priority code J8ROIC

Visit http://java.sun.com/javaone for more information.

Cats on duty



    Some of my cats on active duty, trying to convince a mouse to come out from under the cabinet. Needless to say, they were not effective in their persuasion.

Sunday Dec 30, 2007

One Merry Christmas

    It's that time of year when so many people ask me what I want for Christmas. This isn't usually an easy question to answer for me. If I want something that's in a reasonable price range for a holiday gift, I tend to buy it myself, although I try to remember not to as the holidays approach. And if I haven't bought it for myself, that usually means it is too expensive to suggest for others to get me.

    This year it was easier. I've been downsizing as part of an effort to simplify my life and make moving into a smaller home next fall easier. The work is hard, but I'm looking forward to the pay off. One inspiration for this effort has been a change in my approach to life. I've finally gotten tired of all the things I've collected over the years, and the associated mess, as I'm not organized enough for this level of stuff. So this year when I'm asked what I want for Christmas, I truthfully say 'nothing'.

    Not everyone asks me, so I did get a few small things as part of the Christmas celebration at my father-in-law's on the 25th. But I think one of the best thing I got was a spontaneous walk through the snow filled woods with my oldest son. My boys and I put on all our snow clothes and stepped outside to play in the snow. It was a teasing snow, as it was sticky enough to hold a snow ball shape, but not enough to really hold up to snow man making or even much throwing. We had fun anyway, and after a while of the boys playing by themselves, I started to wander down a path to the woods. My boys tagged along and took over the lead.

    There are snowmobile trails through these woods, and as we approached one, my sister-in-law and her husband were returning from a walk. My youngest decided he was ready to go inside, so he went with my sister-in-law back to the house. My oldest led the way on down the snowmobile trail, and I followed. We found the yellow snow writing mentioned by my sister-in-law, which was quite well done. We observed many animal signs, including deer tracks, rabbit tracks, mice tunnels, and we spooked a pheasant on the way back. We also saw some footprints that looked like they belonged to a large bird. I was suspicious at first, as they were quite large and single file, but they were extensive enough to prove to me they were not man made. My current theory is they were turkey tracks.

    I eventually had to suggest we head back, as it was getting dark, and our total walk took just over an hour. It was relaxing, enjoyable, and our interactions were more as friends than as guardian and charge. We got exercise, discussed what we saw, and neither one of us whined. :-) As a former boss of mine would say when giving positive feedback, 'More of that'.

Thursday Dec 13, 2007

Slow traffic


Multimedia message
Originally uploaded by Dr. Agonfly.

Barely moving in stop & go snow traffic, and this sign has a helpful tip. It starts with 'Ice and Snow'. :-)

Snow pic for Thinguy


FW:
Originally uploaded by Dr. Agonfly.

Snow traffic pic for Thinguy.

Monday Dec 10, 2007

Hacking my T3

    I mentioned in a previous post that I had ordered a new higher capacity battery for My Palm T3 off eBay, but found I didn't immediately need it. Well, this weekend I finally succumbed to the thinking that I might as well benefit from the longer battery life now, rather than wait until my current original battery shows significant signs of decay. I had been gathering the battery and it's directions, which had wandered to different parts of the house, during the week, and took time to get started. Naturally, a full backup was in order. One of the reasons I had hesitated in the past is that for some reason, after a hard reset and restore, Diddlebug looses sync with the sound database, so anytime an alarm goes of, it crashes the T3. To resolve this, you have to go through the process of reselecting each alarm sound you have specified, and since I use Diddlebug for a variety of repeating alarms, mostly for chores, it takes a little extra effort. But the urge for a better T3 overcame that obstacle.

    The printed directions that came with the battery were really for Tungsten T, so once I was under way, I got a bit nervous and Googled T3 specific steps, finding a very nice writeup with pictures. A few deep breaths, and some careful prying later, I was in. Tada, here it is, in it's dissasembled glory:



    More careful prying, so I could re-use the double sided tape that holds the battery in place, and I had the new battery in place. Re-assembly was pretty straight forward, and the new battery had plenty of charge for me to verify everything was working OK. Start a restore, drop it in the charger cradle, and I'm back to where I was before I started, except with more power. Then, before Didlebug starts alarming me with crashes, I took the time to reset the sound pointers. 2 days later, and I'm pleased with the results. Next up in T3 work - rebuild from hard reset to figure out why Bluetooth to my RAZR has problems. Prior to the theft of my backup T3, I'm pretty sure I tested BT to RAZR with out any of my stuff on it, and it worked fine. So, something somewhere is amiss. While I have managed to do a lot more on my RAZR than I expected, I still miss some of the things my T3 could do accessing the Internet. :-(

Friday Dec 07, 2007

Peaceful

    It's been one of those weeks. I've been trying to get ready for the move of several labs I kinda oversee, and the move finally happened last Friday. But the Wednesday before, I get a call from someone in the company looking for some lab space and equipment to work with. Bad timing, but I try to do the SMI thing and accommodate them. Means I spent more time this week shuffling out heavy equipment I thought I was getting rid of, and trying to fit it into the new smaller spaces.

    Then there was the home front. As I've mentioned before, selling our house is something we are planning to do within the next year. So we decided to get the jump and get a Title 5 certification, which is a Massachusetts requirement for making sure your septic is AOK. Well, we passed fine when we bought the house, but the rules have changed, so we needed another manhole, and needed a new D-box. That means we ended up with a hole in the yard for a couple days, and the septic man stopping by for paperwork, etc.

    This while we have been dealing with a furnace issue, which turned out to be a bad pump. While they were at it, we had them clean up the rats nest of wiring, and add a relay so the furnace only goes on when there is a call for heat. Previously, it would go on regularly to keep the hot water hot, but now it only goes on when the hot water calls for heat. That took a couple days, including the day when our professional organizers were at the house for their regular visit. We decided we could use some help getting rid of stuff and organizing, in order to meet our moving deadline. If nothing else, it keeps us focussed on getting things done, so we don't look bad in front of the organizers. You know, 'quick, clean the house before the cleaning service gets here'. \^_\^

    So tonight I really enjoyed a peaceful moment. As I was walking to the door of my fathers apartment to pick up my young son, with the snow lightly falling, I heard the soft call of an owl. I told my son and we both went out quietly and listened, and were again rewarded with the owl song in the silent, peaceful night air. You can only capture moments like that in memory, technology just can't cut it. I hope my son remembers it as long as I do.

Saturday Nov 24, 2007

On Bluetooth Headsets

    I have really come to appreciate a bluetooth headset as an accessary for a cell phone. I detest not having both hands free to drive with, but find talking on a cell phone no more distracting than arguing with talk radio. Perhaps I should get rid of radio as well, but I'm not one to abdicate all responsibility just because something might happen. So I've always used a headset for my various cell phones when driving, but found the wired kind were too awkward for use when not driving, and often awkward when driving. They also would wear out every couple of months due to broken wires, so even replacing them with the cheapest I could find was costing money and a regular effort. I thought that maybe a wireless headset might resolve that problem. I started with a Motorola HS850 I bought from eBay, used with my old Nokia 6130i, and found it not quite what I was hoping. It seemed to lack oomph, and was a bit flaky. After it ended up on the wrong end of a bit of road rage, I tried a Motorla H700. I liked the folding boom concept, and I read that older models weren't great, but the newer B revs were. I ended up with a B rev, and found it much better. It was lighter, and I found it so comfortable that I would wear it all day and forget I had it on.

    I enjoyed it for close to a year, and then a month or so ago, it started acting up. It would drop it's connection to the phone at random times, and sometimes reconnect right away. It started to refuse to connect, which got really annoying just before a long con call. Googling the web for how to reset turned up repeated suggestions that plugging it into it's charger for less than 5 seconds was supposed to reset it. Sounds like an odd way to reset particularly when it seems like a not unlikely thing to happen by accident. Anyway, it did not seem to help my situation any. I tried deleting the pairing from the phone, but got exceedingly frustrated trying to get the headset in pairing mode. Even when I did manage to get them paired again, it still acted flaky. I thought a power removal reset was my last hope, but since it has a built in rechargeable battery, that was not going to be easy. I decided to try leaving it on until it ran out, and then, as if to taunt me, it worked without any problems for 4 days before it finally ran out o juice. Made for some interesting explanations, as I started a day or 2 before I went camping at a state park with some friends, and ended up with it on most of the trip.

    A full recharge later, and it still wasn't better, so that's when I started researching for a new headset. I also decided to try taking it apart, which didn't seem easy, but here is the result. After carefully putting it together again, being careful in replacing the little rubber piece which acts as the switch for the boom, it seemed to be it's old self again and worked flawlessly for a week. Then, I took it off to go play basketball at lunch, and when I came back it didn't want to connect with my phone anymore. Meanwhile, my research had me leaning towards a Jabra headset. I didn't want to pay as much as a Jawbone would cost, despite it's high praise, and I wanted to get it at a local store like Best Buy, so I could try it for comfort before completely committing to it. While the Jabra BT250 got good reviews, I was concerned about the form factor. I was convinced that fit and comfort where likely to be the most important aspects of a new bluetooth headset, as I expected the quality level to be closer than the previous models I had used. I scoped out the Best buy website, as I didn't want to spend a lot on a new headset either, being the cheapy I am, and spotted the Jabra BT5010, which also seemed to get good ratings and looked cooler and hopefully more comfortable than the BT250. Since I am seriously 'addicted' to the ease of use of my bluetooth headset, I didn't waste much time toodling off to my near by Best Buy.

    Although it looked like a good size store to me, the selection did not include the Jabra BT5010, which the sales clerk said was because they were a smaller store. I didn't want to leave without a replacement headset, so I reluctantly decided to try the Jabra BT250. I got it home, carefully opened the package, since I wanted to return it if it was uncomfortable, and set it to charging. I did try it for a few days, and while it worked well, with particularly strong sound if you got an ear tip that fit snugly in your ear, it was just too darn uncomfortable. I always knew it was there, and it started to get annoyingly painful after an hour or so. A couple of days later I found myself in the Framingham area, so I stopped in to the Best Buy in Shopper's World. Sure enough, they had the Jabra BT5010, so I bought one and brought it home to try. Charged it over night, again being careful of the packaging, and gave it a try. OK, it was more comfortable than the BT250, but still not quite as comfortable as the H700. I could go most of the day before it started to be annoying.

    Perhaps I was too used to the H700, but I found the BT5010 took a bit of getting used to. It has a sliding boom microphone, which is one of the features I liked when I saw it, as I thought that would help me sound better when speaking. Unfortunately, if the boom mic slides back up even a little bit, it disconnects the call. I lost count of how many times I had to apologize for dropping a call due to that, from sneezes, moving my head while my hand was near, scratching, coat collar, etc. Also, since it has a moldable ear hook, I was often trying to get it snug, and being unused to the button at the top for disconnecting calls, would again end up dropping a call when trying to push the headset on tighter. The sliding boom picks up and drops calls, but does not power it off like the folding boom on the H700. To turn it off and on, there is a tiny button on the back, which is hard to push when you put the headset on your ear and then remember it isn't on. Heck, it's not that easy to push even when it's off your ear. It functioned OK, but it still wasn't as easy to use or comfortable as the H700. It was more comfortable than the BT250, the the BT250 went back to Best Buy. Back to eBay.

    On eBay, I found H700s going for as low as $20-30 in auctions, although there where warnings in some about making sure you get an original. Not paying much heed, I successfully won an auction for an H700 for around $20 including shipping. I had the BT5010, so I wasn't in a rush, and when it came set about charging it fully. Even a cursory glance, having owned one for a while, I could see it didn't look quite right. I was sure it was a fake, but as long as it worked and was comfortable, I didn't really care. It did work fine, and although the ear hook was stiffer, I swapped it with the one from my original and was fine. Problem was, it only worked fully for a few days. Then I went looking and found the person I bought it from was de-listed from eBay. Bad sign. I tried emailing him. Bounce. Another bad sign. I was ready to give up when he actually replied to my email, and explained he was de-listed while they verified his business, and that he would be back on eBay shortly. He was willing to take it back, but I had been burned before on a low cost item where the shipping was more than the item, so I was hesitant that I would end up with pretty much nothing.

    I decide to try a more safe means of purchasing an H700, and found that Amazon, through a partner, was selling real ones for $40. The Amazon page had a guide from Motorola showing how to tell a fake from and original, further confirming the status of the one I got from eBay. I purchased one from Amazon, which turned out to be an original, and which I am happily using to this day. During my research, I saw hints that Motorola was stopping making the H700, so I will try to verify and get an extra or 2. When I get comfortable with something, I get cranky when it breaks or gets lost and I can't get a new one. :-) Besides, I may convince my wife to get one. She has already tried the BT5010, and wants to try the H700. She isn't as big a fan of headsets, but does see the benefit for con calls, which she is doing more of these days. BTW, it looks like what killed my first H700, and partially killed my second, was a suspect wallwart. Don't know if it is a fake or not, as it looks real, but I made the connection after the fake H700 started having problems, and I remembered that sometimes my RAZR showed fully charged but seemed to wear down quicker than usual. Further testing confirmed that one of my Motorola USB chargers was not providing proper charge. Interestingly enough, the one that came with the fake didn't even work at all. Should I get a spare from eBay? \^_\^

Thursday Nov 22, 2007

Old eyes and new flashlights

    Looks like it's confession week here on the old blog. I've always had a thing for flashlights, probably stemming from my wee little days when I wanted to stay up later than my parents let me. I've owned quite a number of interesting flashlights over the years, including one from the 80s which included 3 LEDs in the side to tell you the battery strength. I didn't think that was such a compelling idea, and avoided buying one. Then one day, while partaking in a common habit of mine to browse stores during clearance sale times, I wandered into an American Eagle Outfitters and found said flashlight on clearance sale. Feeling generous, and loving a bargain, I bought one and soon discovered that while I did indeed find the LEDs rather a waste, the flashlight itself was surprising powerful. That was one of my favorites, until I lost it. :-( They stopped making them even before I bought mine, so getting a replacement was out of the question.

    Before I digress into more war stories of my flashlights, which may make another blog entry sometime, I'll move on to my eyes. Today being Thanksgiving Day, one of the things I give thanks for are my eyes. Most of my life I have had better than 20/20 vision, and my eyesight was one of the few things the Navy found worthwhile back in the 'An Officer and a Gentleman' days when I tried joining the Navy flight school program. Suffice it to say that I didn't make the program, and went on to live a productive life anyway. As I age gracefully, \^_\^ , my eyes have started to weaken, so that I am learning new habits, like trying to always have a pair of reading glasses at hand. Darn frustrating to not be able to read things I used to read with ease. Oh well, I'm well stocked with reading glasses, and I'm slowly getting used to it.

    The other night I went out for a bite and a night out with my best friend. We checked out a 'super buffet', and despite buffets being a weakness of mine, we enjoyed the food, didn't eat too much and did much chatting. We would have probably done more chatting, but the wait staff seemed to be wanting us to move on, despite the abundance of empty tables. Earlier in the day, my youngest had put his hand through a window pane, and ended up with stitches between 2 of his fingers. My wife called to ask me to pick up some antibiotic ointment for him, so my friend and I stopped by CVS, a local drug store chain. I don't get out shopping as much as I did in my youth, for a variety of reasons, so when I do and I'm not rushed, I often browse. While doing so at CVS, I saw a 21 LED aircraft-grade aluminum small flashlight. It was packages to let one try it, and upon trying it I found it was bright. It was only $10, so I couldn't resist. I didn't really have a compelling reason for it, but I bought it anyway. Turns out it's been handier than I thought. I've already used it to distract and entertain my youngest when he was getting close to being fussy. And it's strong, very white light came in handy at church on Sunday.

    Despite my best efforts to keep reading glasses in as many handy places as possible, I was fighting a cold and was a bit spacey in the process and ended up at church without reading glasses. Our church does have a large print order of service, but those old hymnals can be tough on the eyes. While resigning myself to humming the hymns, I recalled the flashlight, currently in my pocket, and how extra light often helps me read. Sure enough, the bright white light helped. That and holding the hymnal at a readable distance allowed me to sing along and handle other reading that came up. Since it was an intergenerational service, meaning the kids stayed in the service instead of going to Sunday School, I again used it to distract my youngest, who had stayed up front for the story for all ages, and had been quiet though restless for a while and would soon likely start making noise. I finally caught his attention, showed him the flashlight, and he made his way back to our pew. Now I'm thinking about getting another one, as I inevitably loose things I use a lot, and may never find this model again if I don't get one now. Hmmmm, I wonder if CVS is open on Thanksgiving Day.

Tuesday Nov 20, 2007

Dude, you're getting Solaris

    I'll start right out by admitting to being a big fan of the Muppets. I love the Muppet Show, although I'm approaching the age where I could do the role of Waldorf or Stadtler, the elder hecklers from the private box. It should come as no surprise that I have seen most of the Muppet movies, including Muppets from Space. In this movie, there are a couple scenes in which a Muppet bear tries to calm his human boss in a secret government agency by suggesting 'baby steps, sir, baby steps'. I like using that line myself to remember that success doesn't have to come fast or in big strides.

    By now you have probably heard that Dell to carry Solaris 10 on PowerEdge servers as noted by CNET, and noted in Jonathan's blog. Based on a CNET News Blog from last year, Dell: No Solaris until it's a standard, looks like Solaris is making progress, at least in Dell's eyes. Not too long ago we announced that IBM is doing the same thing, selling and supporting Solaris on their x86 servers, with another Jonathan blog about it. More progress for Solaris.

    Even more exciting is the availability of a developer preview of Project Indiana, an OpenSolaris binary distribution with the look, feel, and tools of a standard Linux distribution. The best of both worlds, available in a Live CD to test out and provide feedback on as it moves forward. The way I look at it, Solaris is doing as the Muppet bear suggested, and making great progress in manageable 'baby steps'. Or as the young man from the old Dell commercial might say "Dude, you're getting Solaris".

Monday Nov 12, 2007

A short holiday in Portland, ME

    Just came back from a short trip to one of my favorite places, Portland, Maine. My wife and I first went to Portland when my oldest was a baby, while my wife attended a conference. That was when I first had a lobster omelette at the IHOP next to the hotel, and I've had them often since. Not much can compete with fresh Maine lobster, and it's not often you can get it for breakfast. Man, there was a lot of lobster in that thing.

    We have been back many times. We started a Christmas tradition of going up so the kids could ride the Maine Narrow Gauge RailRoad Company and Museum train, which would have holiday lights set up along it's route. The kids loved it, despite it being darn cold. It was a great time to get some holiday shopping done. Haven't done that in a while though. :-(

    The old port area by the waterfront has a wonderful selection of shops and restaurants, and makes for nice casual walking and browsing. Another of our favorite attractions is The Children's Museum of Maine. This is one of the best places for kids, with play exhibits for every age and interest. My kids always love it, and this trip was no exception. I was there with them for 3.5 hours, and they still weren't bored. There is a play fire engine, pirate ship, space shuttle, LL Bean camping area, grocery store, veterinary, car repair area, toddler area, dress up theatre... If you have kids and you are with them in the Portland area, you have to take them there. It's a bargain at $7 per person.

    We stopped by the L.L. Bean Outlet Store in Portland to get my oldest a new winter jacket. Not quite the selection of the 7x24 L.L. Bean store just up the rud a piece in Freeport, ME, but we managed to get him something. I always find Portland one of the more relaxing cities I visit, and it's on the ocean. Bonus.

    Another nearby attraction that the kids enjoy is the Desert of Maine. This is an interesting glacial geological phenomenon, and the kids really enjoy going there, but it is closed at this time of year. They have a campground, so we usually make a camping trip out of it, with the requisit tent and s'mores. Reminds me, I'd better pencil in a weekend for that trip next summer, as it may be hectic.

    You know, this post didn't start out as an advertisement for Portland, ME, but is sure looks like it turned into one. I'm not one to try gratuitously promoting businesses, etc. but I do like for folks to have easy access to more details about stuff I find interesting or important. The L.L. Bean link is borderline, but the 7x24 store does make for neat late night holiday shopping trips. When I dated a girl from Wellesley college, they had a yearly bus trip late at night for just that reason. Honest. \^_\^.
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A place where Perley Mears sounds off on topics relevant to his work at Oracle.

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