Friday Sep 05, 2008

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

After 6 1/2 years at Sun I am leaving to work with the folks at Canonical to help them in their efforts to spread the open source Ubuntu Linux operating system.  At Sun I started in the telco group and from there worked with Java ME, Java EE, GlassFish and Open Source. Along the way I've worked with and for some wonderful people who helped me navigate the complexities of a large company like Sun and taught me a few things - which is what made the job interesting.  So I send a thank you to Simon Phipps, Jean Elliot, David Bryant, David Marr, Terri Molini and everyone else who provided valuable counsel and gave me the chance to explore and learn all about open source.  I"ll have a new blog - somewhere. Check my Facebook page or LinkedIn page for details.  

Wednesday Aug 27, 2008

All Cows Point North

I ride my mountain bike thru areas that cows are pastured in the East Bay hills.  We always thought that all cows faced the same way because 1) it looked better, 2) they looked better to each other "it's slimming" or 3) the smell drifted down wind.  As it turns out there is a new reason and that is that all cow point North. See the results of Germans, with loads of free time, can learn looking at Google earth.

GO! Airlines

After my Aloha airline flights were canceled due to bankruptcy (see my previous post) I rescheduled on American Air and GO! for inter Island flights.  A little background, GO! is the low cost carrier (a subsidiary of MESA Air) that put Aloha out of business for inter Island flights in HI.  There were some illegal price cutting going on as well, but that was settled in a lawsuit. 

 We landed in HNL and went to find the GO! gates. GO! is listed on the monitors (alternating with Mesa which is a nice touch) and the gates are in the commuter terminal which are in the 70s at the end of the airport.  So we followed the signs to the gates, walked along the outdoor concourse, walked thru some doors to a nice, new air conditioned concourse, the down some stairs to an open, hot, stagmant dugeon. This was the secure holding area for GO! airlines. There were the 4 of us, 2 very bored security types and an ummanned GO! computer desk flashing a M$FT screen saver.  There were no gate numbers, no information, just a bunch of seats - so we sat.  After 30 minutes we asked the guards about GO! and they gestered that this was the place.  So we waited some more until finally a GO! employee showed up (20 minutes before our flight) and led us out the doors onto the runway, down the terminal to the GO! terminal. This was where the action was- it had a bar, AC, hip young (fearfully inexperienced ticket folks who appeared to be no older than 15) and lots of customers.  As it turns out, the dungeon is the "secure" area and to get to the real GO! area, we would have to leave and then go thru security again to get to the bar area.  Of course no one told us this and there were no signs - very odd!

Our plane arrived, along with 2 others, and we all went out on the runway and headed to our plane. No real organization here, its more like a bus terminal with banners on the stairs that indicate the planes's destination.  We boarded the right plane, strapped in and listened to flight instructions from our 15 year old flight dude (attendant is too generous a description).  In keeping with its low cost status, everything on the plane costs $$, even water ($1.50 for a 500 mL bottle).  The flight was fast, efficient and casual. Upon landing I was handed a map from our "attendant" and here's the conversation:

 Dude:  Map?
Me: Yes, thanks
Dude: Sweet!

 Next time I am going to fly Hawaiian airlines and bypass GO! as a feel GO! is just a bit too casual and inexperienced for my tastes.


Monday Jul 14, 2008

Upgraded Leopard to 10.5.4

I downloaded the latest Leopard (all 450 Mb of it) and upgraded my OS during a relatively quiet time.  It took a few minutes to download the package (don't try this at home, I did it at the office which has huge pipes) and another 10 to execute, configure and restart my MacBook Pro.  The upgrade seems to have worked perfectly. I don't notice much different behavior, but it seems to recover more consistently from sleep than it did before. I am somewhat wary of these gargantuan upgrades so I tend to wait until I have backed up everything (time machine works great) and perform a search to make sure that these upgrades go ok.  Next step is to upgrade the firmware.

Update - I upgraded my firmware (this is always scary) and it worked well. 

 What I've noticed:  1) Laptop wakes up from sleep always (thanks Apple). No more annoying opening and closing the lid to get it to wake up.  2) it connects and properly formats display for external screen. I use a rectangular Sun 20" LCD external screen so the laptop has to recognize an external screen, change the format (from elongated to square) and change the resolution.  It now does this easily.  I can also get it to recognize the external screen whether the laptop is open OR closed. When closed (and sleeping) I plug in the ethernet, monitor cable, power THEN a USB mouse and the laptop awakens and formats for the screen.  The power is key to get this to work.

Friday Apr 04, 2008

And now ATA Flies into the Ground

And... now ATA has declared bankruptcy eliminating more capacity to Hawaii. ATA was kind of a bottom feeder carrier anyway, but this did come out of the blue sky and crashed into Oakland airport where ATA just quit w/ no advanced notice (unlike Aloha that was at least nice about it).  With the loss of nearly 10% of mainland to Hawaii capacity and the fact that Untied and American fly with nearly full planes, fares to Hawaii doubled last night!  Yes doubled.  I would expect them to drop as the big guys add capacity and figure out how to rebalance their flights.  I would also guess they would get a bit of pressure from the Governor of Hawaii as they are very dependent on tourists from the mainland.   

Tuesday Apr 01, 2008

Aloha Air no Longer Answers the Phone

Aloha is really, really shut down.  When I called their phone line to ask about my existing reservation I listened to a recording and was then told to contact my travel agent (in this case myself) about rebooking.  They are gone.  So as my own travel agent, I called my credit card company and filed a dispute over the charge (which I had not paid for yet) for a service that was clearly not going to be delivered.  Fortunately, the card company will cover the charge.  Next I rebooked my flights on American Airlines which I am pretty sure won't go out of business between now and Summer.  Lesson learned - it is good to pay for a high value visa card and be a customer in good standing so they will take care of things like this!

Monday Mar 31, 2008

Aloha Air Says Aloha to all Flights

Alas, Aloha Airlines - that venerable symbol of Hawaii filed for bankruptcy recently and today announced they are no longer flying.  March 31 (today) is that last day they will fly!  Of course I bought tix on Aloha for a trip later this summer so I am now seeing if United (their partner) will honor the tix or if my credit card company can help.   Although bad for me (any my vacation), this is an even worse blow to those who work for Aloha who have jobs no more.  The airline business is a very competitive, cut-throat affair and you have to be nimble to survive.  I would guess that that Aloha's problems have been around for some time and were exacerbated by their failure to expand their mainland-to-island flights to ensure some cash generating long haul flights.  When a competitor came in to the inter-island business Aloha did not have the financial ability to react!  Add this to the steep increased in fuel costs and Aloha seems to have been trapped by low fare competitors and the high cost of gas.  Check and mate!

Wednesday Feb 20, 2008

Dell's Great in-home service

Well, my mom's hard drive died on her - puking out the blue-screen-of-vista-death.  After spending an hour on the phone w/ Dell support in India she learned that her computer didn't work!  However,  they did not propose to fix it or help out.  The box comes with a 1 year in-home warranty so they should have fixed it right?  So she called me and I phone Dell, outraged! As it turns out they did file a report about a hard drive crash, but the passive tech support guy did nothing more (kind of like going to Kaiser to see your doctor - you have to be assertive or they won't fix you either).  So I managed to get them to admit that a hard drive crash after 6 months IS a warranty item and they agreed to replace it. Not only that, they sent someone out w/ an imaged disk to replace it at my mom's home. And, if you can believe this, they even showed up on time. On the promised day!  Now my mom's computer is back up and running, but with all that ad-ware that Dell so conveniently provides.  Well maybe there is hope for Dell yet!

My next step is to remove the adware and install CrossLoop an opensource  VNC application that allows me to take control of her desktop remotely so I can help her w/ email and Firefox.  So far it works really, really well and does exactly what I need it to do - saving me a trip to her house to show her how to print documents!

Wednesday Feb 13, 2008

Upgraded to Leopard without a hitch!

I bought the family pack for Leopard to upgrade all my machines back in November.  I was waiting, however, for the first big patch to be released before I did the upgrade (I am an earlyish adopter of tech, not a bleeding-edge adopter) because I just didn't want to deal w/ glitches on my work laptop. Well Apple just released 10.5 update  BEAST (all 347 MB of it !!)

The standard upgrade went well (I did back up my data to and external drive) and took about 1 1/2 hours. Then I went into work to download the BEAST and with Sun's big pipes that took just a few minutes (less than 5, I think).  I ran the installer (another 5 minutes or so) and it worked great.

 Now, After 24 hours, everything is stable and I've noticed no problems.  Nor have I noticed my Mac running any slower or faster - its just about the same.  All programs work, all data is there, none of my documents or pictures were lost.  I had 2 very minor issues 1) I had to reinstall my printers and 2) I had to reinstall PocketMac to sync my BlackBerry. 

Friday Aug 31, 2007

I didn't know Duct Tape could do that!

So the wife cuts her foot just as we go to spend a week on the beach. The thought of salty sandy stuff rubbing into a cut on her foot and shoe is just not a nice thing.  So in search of a waterproof barrier solution she starts thinking "What can I use to cover my cut that is water proof?"  The answer, of course, is Duct Tape - you know that stuff they make into wallet shapes and sell at hardware stores?  So in searching for Duct Tape to apply over her bandage what does she find but....."Duct Tape Bandages"!  Rats, we were beaten to a great design idea by someone else.  The photo is not faked or photoshopped but the actual  product we bought off the shelf at a drug store.  The bandages worked ok, sea water and sand are a difficult combination for any adhesive, but the concept is brilliant!

Thursday Aug 16, 2007

My Dog is a Skunk Magnet!

Stupid dog! Those are the words that Eustice (from the "Courage the Cowardly Dog" TV show) used to scream at his dog everytime "Courage" did something silly - like save him from a man eating plant.  I got to use that same phrase last night when, while reading, my dog barked and suddenly a stinging, eye-burning, gagging skunk oder entered the house thru the open sliding glass door.  My dog had found and disturbed a skunk in our back yard.  Now this would not have been so bad had the same dog not been skunked last week on a walk in the nearby canyon. So that's 2 skunkings in a week!  Not good for the dog and not good for the master either.   So at 11 last night we washed the dog in the magic skunk remover and sent him to the garage to sleep - and aired out the house until midnight.

Mom's De-Skunker for Dogs

We learned (thanks to the Internet) that tomato juice does not work on skunked dogs - that's just an old wives tale. What DOES work is a mix of Hydrogen Peroxide, soap and baking soda.  Basically the soap washes off the oil, the hydrogen peroxide helps break it down and the baking soda absorbs the oil.  Mix 1 quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide with 1/4 cup of baking
soda and 1 teaspoon of mild dishwashing detergent (make sure it doesn't
contain bleach or ammonia). Rub this over your stupid dog, rinse and repeat.   We've use this 2x time and I can attest that this does work very, very well and makes the dog much happier.


Wednesday Aug 08, 2007

What no Leopard in new iMacs?

Ok, the new iMacs are here and represent an incremental improvement in performance and include ilife 08 which has some very nice features but where is Leopard. Steve (and fake-Steve) we all know this is due in Ocotoberish, we've seen the Beta releases so why not include it as a free upgrade in the new iMacs?  Either I buy a new iMac now and pay $129 for a sw upgrade in a month or wait and get it for free!  Apple has no comment so far and I can't figure out what they are waiting for other than trying to milk the last $$ out of every consumer.

 I was in SF yesterday for Linux World and took an hour and looked at the new iMacs - they were in the process of connecting them in the store so no touchy yet!  They looked nice, the striking feature of course is the glossy screen. The entire plane of the screen is high gloss which is good for looking at photos as the finish makes the photos "pop", but I am a bit concerned about glare from light sources behind me.

 I bought my last iMac (a G4) in December 2002 and paid just about the same price that the new ones are going for except now I can get a 2.4 GHz dual core processor and 4 G RAM rather than a 800 MHz processor and 756 M RAM!  Moore's law continues to plug away at costs.  Anyway, the old G4 is dog slow - so slow that it has a very hard time chomping on my 10 Meg photos so the new iMac is needed, the only question is how much longer do I wait?

Thursday Aug 02, 2007

Apple New Products Announcement Set for Tuesday Aug 7

The new iMacs are near!  Apple has set next Tu as a product announcement date. What they will announce is anyone's guess, but it's time to talk about the next generation of iMacs and a date for releasing Leopard.  

Wednesday Aug 01, 2007

The Fstop - professional photographers discuss their craft

The 2nd issue of "F-Stop" is online. This is a very interesting publication focussed on professional photographers and how they setup and light certain photos.  It gives an in depth look at how advertising photos are created (both on site w/ lighting and on the computer later) and makes you realize that the days of "simple" photography are long past.  Typically they feature 4 images w/ in-depth interviews with the photographer and drawings of how the photos were set up.  These images are part art and part science with some very complicated work behind the scenes.

Tuesday Jul 31, 2007

The Wall Street Journal - unFair and unBalanced?

Rupert Murdoch is on the cusp of buying the WSJ - that venerable paper of journalistic integrity.  Unfortunately, that may not continue.  Murdoch's other outlets, namely Fox News, has already won a case, upheld by the Florida Supreme court that, "there is no rule against distorting or falsifying news".  Since Rupert enabled Fox TV to distort facts (after all its just entertainment and who watches TV news?) it was ok.  However, applying that journalistic style to the WSJ is a different issue all together.  The WSJ is the standard for truth in the financial world where truth and access to facts are what enable our financial systems operate smoothly.   Just look at your credit card statements - many of these tie their interest rates to the "prime rate as printed in the WSJ".  Just imagine if Rupert decides to "distort" the prime rate in the WSJ and jack it up 42% or so just for fun? What happens if he prints falsified stories about companies being bought or sold as a way to sell papers?  Just think how he could cause chaos in the markets - all under the guise of newspapers as entertainment?  I think we need to watch this move carefully.




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