I think of a great deal of the things I want to say here while in the car. Often I forget them before I get around to commiting them. Which was the whole point of this, to note things in my life before I forget them. Have to work on it I guess.
June 2004 Archives
I listened to this book after getting it from Audible on my iPod. It is written by Dan Brown who is better known for The Da Vinci Code. It is about the NSA and an adventure to find something. The first 80% of the book is great. The last 20% goes into movie technology wonderland. Stuff that doesn't and probably never will exist is used and it just gets wacky. It is really sad to see this decent since the rest of the book is good even in reference to technology. I would still recommend it is a good techno-thriller.
Let me start out by saying that this game is addictive. If you liked WC3 you will love this game. The best part of it I think is that it isn't full of normal missions. There are very few missions where it is the enemy has a big base, you need to build a big base and bash them. More than half the levels are ones with limited armies, supplies or both. These levels take a good level of strategy and creativeness. It is a nice change of pace.
The other thing about this expansion is that it is huge. The original game had 4 sections with 9-10 level a piece. The expansion has 4 sections with 6-7 levels. It has amazing CGI just like the original game as well. Many of the cutscenes are engine based, but still high quality. Lastly, the storyline is pretty good too.
For the 4th of July we wanted to do something special here at Casa de Rog. I am bringing home a projector from school and we are going to project onto a sheet on back of house. I tested the projector tonight, minus screen, to get an idea of sizing. Tomorrow I am going to go get some sheets and a rod for weight. More updates to follow.
Our basement has been affectionately known as The Lounge since we moved in. With its recliners, 2 TVs, refrigerator and arcade game. Now Travis's DVD player has migrated down to it. This DVD player has the ability to hook a microphone up to it and play Karaoke VCDs. Last night after Dave & Buster's it was fully broken in. They were singing up a storm until almost 4 AM.
The scariest part is sometimes watching Travis and Roger, even while sober, sing the songs. The thing is they make up their own words and parodies as they are going and most often think of the same thing. The mind meld is complete!
Last night many of us held a surprise birthday party for Coleen at Dave & Buster's. There were about 18 of us who arrived about 8:30 and got a table. Then Coleen and Matt arrived about 9:00. Roger brought cake from Giant. Fun was had by all and then we of course adjourned to the midway with all its gaming delights. Always a fun place, if not always cheap.
Last week I watched two movies on DVD that I had bought. The first DVD was Eurotrip. This is probably exactly what anyone would expect of it. Very much a mixture of Roadtrip and American Pie. Some teens go to Europe, get into various messes and have fun while doing it. All in the hopes of finding one person's pen pal. Many funny moments and quite good overall.
The second DVD was 50 First Dates. This was a romantic comedy that leaned more toward comedy than romantic. It as well had many funny moments and was a good movie. It had kind of a sappy if not quite predictable ending. Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore seem to be pretty good at these types of movies.
Well I actually played and finished Max Payne 2 almost 2 weeks ago. I kept meaning to write about it and forgot. I you like Max Payne you will like this game, if not you won't. It is basically the exact same game with different guys to shoot and different places to shoot them. It was fun and challenging at times. Lots of bullet time shooting and at somes times just a ridiculous number of bad guys. One of the things that bothered me about the game was the re-use of levels. Almost every level was used 3-4 times, you would find someone and then later in the story go back to that same place over and over. This got a little tiring at times. There was a one or two unique levels but they were few and far between. Thankfully they didn't do any of the full on acid trip dreams. They did have two woozy levels where the screen was hazy and wobbled a bit. A neat effect actually.
Now I have to decide what to play next Deus Ex: IW or Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne. I have seen what appears to be definite dates for Doom 3 and possibly Half-Life 2. Which is good and bad. It means I can play them soon, but also means I have to upgrade my computer sooner than later to play them. ARGH!
Every year my school puts out what it calls the redbook. This is a spiral bound book with things like a calendar, codes of conduct and directories. My main contribution is the directory, which basically a phone book for students and their parents. This summer we upgraded our main business logic app which controls or grades and admissions. This meant that I need to upgrade my script which massaged the output from the new system into the phone book like directory.
The trick this year was that the new system changed the way it outputed address and contact number info. It has taken me a week or so to even determine how to get what I want out of the database. There may be a better way but I can't find it. In this process the export file I dealt with grew from 80 fields per student to over 200. Also before when I did the export I knew which fields contained fathers, mother, stepfathers or stepmothers. I no longer know this. This meant I had to write code as a front end to my previous code to just determine which of the 1-4 parents were which.
I was able to do this mostly by doing some array mapping and churning. I look at certain fields to determine who is who. Then I walk through the array to see which of the possible 15 contact fields are the 3-4 I care about. Lots of fun let me tell you. However I have an even greater respect for the simplicty and power of VBScript. Sure there are fancier languages and it can't work efficently on GB's worth of data, but for walking through a 1 MB text file and doing lots of rearranging it works great. I highly recommend learning it if you do anything in the windows admin space. It also has great hooks into Active Directory as I mentioned in a previous entry.
For some reason good ole hoyty.com rebooted and blue screened at 5:15 PM today. There is a BIOS glitch where the server won't reboot properly. Thus it just sat there until I noticed it at about 6:45 PM. Right now I am uploading the 2 GB memory.dmp to Microsoft's tracking site. Cool service, except for the 2 GB part. Sometimes good info comes out of it.
Today I tested two products to try and enable our new tablets to project wirelessly. These were the WPG54G from Linksys and the DPG-2000W from D-Link. There was one other one I wanted to try, but I couldn't find anyone that sold it. The idea for these products was to allow our teachers with tablets to move about the room and project at the same time. Something that is very difficult while tied to a VGA cable.
Both the products failed to meet this goal, maybe for my lack of understanding for how they work, more so I think for lack of creativity in functionality. Both basically forced the tablet to disconnect from our regular wireless network and make a direct connection to the device. This means the teacher can't access shared files or the Internet, which seems like a huge drawback. The linksys can act as an access point and can possibly alleviate this. However it is not a very manageable AP, no strength controls or centralized management. Also both had restrictions on the SSID, linksys forced WPG54G- into it and d-link gave you a few canned choices of DPG0001-09. Not good when you want to have 30-70 of these devices.
I am not sure if the wireless projectors work in this same fashion, but I imagine they do. I can't believe that people would accept this. Losing your network connectivity while projecting seems to not be worth it.
We began investigating another solution that I heard mentioned. This involved hooking a computer (laptop) with wireless to the projector and then running VNC on it. The computer runs as a client in listening mode, then the tablet initiates a server session to the computer and the tablets screen is seen on it and subsequently the projector. This allows for normal network operation and almost as good if not better refresh rates. The downside to this is it entails installing a laptop in every classroom (we have lots of old ones to spare though) and it adds a level of complexity we were hoping to avoid. We will do some more testing and investigation to see where it goes.
I guess I am just dissapointed in the products. I can't believe the short sightedness of them.
We are all back from the wedding. It was a very nice affair. The best part was the church piece was quick, less than 30 min from processional to recessional. We then all retired to the reception next door. The place was actually surprised at how early we were there. This wedding and reception was not quite the operation of recent ones I have been too. No assigned seating and kind of free flowing events during it. It was different but nice. After the recepetion everyone went back and got changed. Most of the wedding attendees then met up at a local bar. The bar was not quite ready for the crew I think, but all went well.
The sleeping arrangements in the room were funny if anything. Since Travis and I were first back we got beds. Then Kevin had his sleeping bag next to AC. Jim and Greg were just on the floor. Lastly, Roger was on top of his sleeping bag and under one of the bed comforters. Like I said funny if nothing else.
That was the adventure for this weekend.
I am off to Williamsburg for a wedding, back tomorrow.
Somehow at about 5:30 PM yesterday the ethernet cable between my server and dsl just broke? Physically it appeared fine and it would link, but no traffic would pass. After lots of other troubleshooting I finally swapped cables and that was it. How this happened I have no idea, mysteries of the universe.
I am not 100% better yet, still fighting runny nose and nagging headache. Last night I went to bed and was asleep by 8 PM. Then about 8:30 2 telemarketers and MP called almost simultaneously. The phone bacially rang 12 times straight, which woke me up. Then I was up until 10:30 not able to go back to sleep. Ugh!
I had been using a 16 MB SD card recently and couldn't find it. Well this morning I did as I was getting dressed. It had gone through the wash and dryer no less. Popped the card into tablet and seems to work fine. It might survive our students next, we will have to see.
In attempt to see what it was all about Travis, Roger and myself sat down Sunday evening to watch Gigli. Travis gave up within ten minutes and Roger within 30. I however being the insane person I am stuck it out. THe movie is pretty bad I must say. It is a drama mostly that relies upon dialogue. The big problem is the dialogue is absolutely horrible. The last 30 minutes of the movie is better than the rest, but that really isn't saying much. You have my permission to skip this one.
I added a signature (created on tablet) and a head shot of me to the the side bar, hopefully it doesn't offend anyone too much. My firend Whitney and her husband Patrick came by today. They are moving from Mississippi to Maine and are winding their way up the east coast. It was nice to see them, hadn't done so since their wedding last fall.
We are smoking a prok shoulder for dinner this evening. We started the coals at about 9:30 this morning and should be able to eat about 5-6 PM. Yummy food.
I am sitting out in my gazebo with two M200 tablets doing some testing. I have one with SP2 and one without to see if some problems are related to that. One if the things that just happened that confused me was a sudden loss of Wi-Fi signal. The laptop with SP1 suddenly lost the signal entirely while the SP2 one was fine. The hardware is identical and drivers are almost the same. Just bizzare, explains some of the weirdness students and teachers go through at our school.
I am trying to figure out a couple of things that popped up during tablet training. However today using the SP2 tablet I can't reproduce the problems, which is puzzling. One I have an idea on, the other makes no sense.
Today I went to Giant to get some food. This giant has had a self checkout for quite a while and I think was one of the test stores. Recently they have remodeled the checkout lines. Previously it was 4 lines in the a small square. Basically you scanned and then immediately bagged and it weighed them to ensure the you weren't stealing. Now they have 4 lines still, only they are full length and have conveyor belts. I think this is to allow full cart loads rather than the simple hand basket type self checkouts.
It is interesting to see the signage that proclaims these self checkouts as new, fast and fun! I like them most of the time, just depends on what I am buying. If it is a bunch of soda and big things, it is easier to have a cashier that can count rather than a machine that works by weight. I guess once RFID tags are in everything, won't even need to unload and reload cart. Ah technology.
As we arrived home from the movie several fire marshalls and ambulances showed up at our neighbors. They didn't seem to be in a huge hurry, no idea what it was?
I can hardily recommend this movie as quality. It is a very good sci-fi flick, lots of ships, fighting and special effects. A fairly good story too, even the ending leaves you with some questions. Vin Diesel if he does it right has the possibility of being a pretty big star. I think he should stick more to films like this or Fast and Furious, but some of his others are ok.
The second day of training for tablets happened today. The teachers came up with even more great ideas, it was just amazing to see them enjoying the tablets and what they can do. There were a few glitches due to SP2 I think, I will checking that this weekend.
Today at school we had the first day of tablet training for the faculty who are getting tablets next year. It was amazing to see the faculty take to them. Many new ideas and techniques came out the session and hopefully even more will come up tomorrow. The teachers will then have them over the summer to prepare for next year.
The training was led by a friend who teaches at another school with tablets. You can see things about her school at CCDS. Also Microsoft and Toshiba made a video about the school which you can view here.
I say this for two reasons. First, students are gone at school and teachers are totally done after tomorrow. Second, I get to wear shorts, T-shirts and Tevas for the rest of the summer.
Now I get to play with all my new toys for next year and make sure everything is working great.
Somehow I have managed to get a cold like thing in June. No idea how. I am home today trying to improve my condition, the rest of the week I can't afford to be at home. I am not sure if it is the rollercoaster weather of late or the walking in the rain for 4 hours this weekend.
We started imaging the tablets yesterday, took a while to get going but it wasn't too bad after that. Not sure how much got done today though since it was graduation at school.
I went to the latest Harry Potter movie with Karen and Roger today. As I assumed it would be, it was sold out. So were all the showings before and after. We got pretty good seats since we got there early enough. The kids seemed to behave pretty good too.
I think this was the best Harry Potter yet, Karen concurred. There were some details that got changed around and a lot of little things that were skipped. This was the shortest movie yet, while being based on longest book yet. It seemed to be a good treatment of the story though. Thumbs up all around.
Off to Sopranos season finale.
Well I finally got to see Troy last night. The showing before the one I went was still sold out after three weeks. The showing I went to was close to being sold out as well I think, I guess the movie is doing well. It was a great movie, epic war story basically. Gives you a nice greek mythology/history lesson to boot. Some of the fight scenes were amazing in scale.
One weird thing is the theater is not showing Harry Potter. Apparently there is some fight between the theater and the distributor. I can't find any news about it, so I am not sure why. I am going to see it this afternoon with Roger and Karen.
I took my adventure today while waiting for my car to be checked out. Pretty much ok, they found a few small things but nothing major. Of course it was expensive, just like everything for this car of a money pit. Don't get me wrong, I like the car. Its just not cheap to maintain.
Well after my meeting I started to head back toward the dealership. Luckily the rain had slowed to a light drizzle and sometimes stopped totally. I left landmark about 1:15. I decided to walk back via Duke St. I turned once I hit Quaker Lane and headed to dealership. I got back to dealership at about 2:45 and my car was ready. I figured in total I walked about 10 miles or so today. It is nice and relaxing, a little time to think.
I didn't use the GBA SP or read anything, but I did get a lot of use out of the iPod and M200. I found the M200 to be useful and not nearly as heavy to carry around.
After writing the previous entries I decided to play some games on the tablet while waiting for my car and to let the rain let up. I played this one game called inkball with the stylus (pen) on the tablet. After playing for a few minute a guy standing in the food asked me how the machine worked. I showed him how the stylus and screen worked and how it could be twisted around. Then I loaded up Journal and let him try some writing and drawing. He seemed amazed by the tablet. I told him some other stuff about it. We talked for about 30-45 min, amazing I must say. Our conversation went from the tablet to football (Ravens vs. Redskins since I mentioned I work in Baltimore) to war in Iraq to web sites. At one point he tried to convince me to help him setup a web site, after 10 minutes of saying no basically he gave up. I had turned off the tablet in the conversation. Then he mentioned he mixes and creates music, this reminded me a of power toy that allows you to write music. I powered up the machine and loaded the app. He then proceeded to write a quick piece of music, it was freaking amazing. I am sure many people can do it, but it took 30-60 seconds to figure out how the program worked and just a few minutes to make a very recognizable piece of music. I said good day to him about 1:15. The whole meeting was an odd and interesting experience. Oh his name was Bill and I am sure I will never see him again in my life.
Today I took my car in for its 60,000 mile checkup. As I often do in my low level insanity I decided to walk around for the 5-6 hours my car was being worked on. Before leaving I loaded up a backpack with interesting things for the day. These include my Mini iPod, my Casio Exlim EX-S2, my Nintendo GameBoy Advance SP, the Clancy novel The Teeth of the Tiger I am currently reading, a couple of game magazines and last but not least the Toshiba Prot�g� M200 that I am typing this on. As I was walking around with this backpack it brought me back to a post on Slashdot about geeks being a target for muggers. I can understand this better now, since I am basically carrying about $3000 (list price) worth of electronics. Most people wouldn�t think this seeing me in my shorts and long sleeve T-shirt walking in the rain. Most would just think me nuts.
As I just mentioned I spent the first part of the walking trip out in the rain. It was gloomy before I left and I decided to check the weather, it said 50% chance of rain. I figured I would try my luck. Well it turns out the glass was half empty rather than half full, or maybe half full of rain. I started out at about 9:30 AM from my dealership at the corner of Quaker Lane and Kings Street. I headed down Braddock Road west, not with any real idea of where I was going, just going. As I walked the weather changed from drizzle to rain and back again. I made it to Van Dorn St, at this point it had begun to rain harder. I decided I would head south toward Landmark Mall. I passed a gas station that had the most expensive gas I had seen in the area yet, decided to take a picture. On the way I came to one dead end and had to double back. This happens often walking around south DC and Alexandria due to large roads and highways. It is often not straightforward on how to go over, under or around these massive roads. The closer I got to Landmark the harder it seemed to rain. I entered Landmark at about 10:45 AM.
I hadn�t been inside Landmark in years so I decided to walk around and see what it was like these days. Two things were immediately apparent. First, about half the mall is empty or in the process of being remodeled and this includes one of the large anchor stores. It is quite sad really to see it in this state. Secondly, there are just an unimaginable number of cellular sales kiosks. There were easily 10 in the mall, many from the same parent company and most selling the same networks and phones. The kiosks are sad little booths with one worker often. There were no customers at most or more than the single worker could handle.
I finally ended up on the third floor food court. It is nice since it has many windows so I can see if the rain is letting up much. As of noon, not so much. I have been sitting in the empty food court out of the way typing away on this M200. I figured I would write some blog entries since I hadn�t written anything in a few days. Unfortunately I am unable to find a Wi-Fi link to leach of off, so I will have to wait until I get home to post these.
On this year�s images and especially with the tablet I want to make them as user friendly as possible. My secondary goal is to shrink the number of post image steps that Patrick or Keith must remember this summer.
To the first end I am installing almost all the little Toshiba utilities and applications. Historically I have resisted the utilities in images I have built, however this school year while watching students and faculty use the machines I realized how useful some of the utilities can be. One of the prime examples is making all the FN hotkeys work for things like LCD brightness and display modes. There are also extra tablet buttons, these allow shortcuts while the machine is in tablet mode and access to the keyboard is difficult. I am also going to go back and retrofit these utilities to the images for older machines. One of the downsides to these utilities is they all run in the background, using memory and CPU cycles. On the tablet upon boot there are approximately 40 running processes, this is almost nuts as I am more used to 10-15. 20 or so are either Toshiba utilities or special pieces of the Tablet edition of Windows XP.
For my second goal I have been doing a great bit of testing and research on how to make changes to the Default User registry. I am making changes to things like the My Music location and settings in Office. Each one of these I have to first find the registry location using tools like regmon and then determine what to change. Then I need to test each change to make sure I have done it right. There is one change in Word that I can�t narrow down sufficiently. There are TechNet articles on the problem for Word XP (2002), however not applying to 2003. I created an online support request with Microsoft, hopefully I will hear back by Monday.
The biggest problem I have with the tablet image is a time crunch of me versus Microsoft development. I had hoped to put both Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Office 2003 Service Pack 1 on the image. This would allow me to not have to re-image the machines at the end of the summer. O2K3 SP1 has not made an appearance at all yet so it is a no go. WXP SP2 is a little closer, I already have Release Candidate 1 and some post builds. I was hoping to get RC2 in time to put it on the image. RC2 was supposed to be out last week and is now hopeful for Monday. If it isn�t out by Monday night I will have to go with build 2142 and hope. I am testing it myself as best I can in 48 hours. There might be curiosity of why I am so intent on SP2 even at the risk of stability. SP2 include the new Tablet Edition 2005 or Lonestar bits in it, this dramatically improves how some of the tablet functions work.
The last piece of the puzzle is tablet specific applications and power toys. There isn�t a great deal of tablet specific applications yet, however they are growing rapidly. Many are still in Beta and don�t have costs yet which still further complicates things. The power toys are interesting, but are open to debate as to their usefulness. I am playing with some this weekend to see which I like.
The tablets did actually arrive as promised on Friday. I ordered them late in the day on Monday May 24th, which only gave them 7 business days to prep the custom configuration. Toshiba took until Thursday to complete them so they were then forced to send them overnight. At first it was going to be FedEx, but apparently shipping two pallets worth of tablet laptops is not for FedEx. They came via a bulk shipper and were delivered in a small semi. As the driver brought in the second pallet, Patrick and I cut open the first pallet to check the condition. As you can see from the picture to the side one box was fairly crushed. It looks like something rammed it. Luckily the box is mostly a crush zone to account for something like this. I am typing this on the tablet that came out of that very box. I also took some shots of what a stack of 65 tablets look like in my office (2nd most secure area in school). I will unbox them either Monday or Tuesday.
Well I went to my secondary go to Best Buy yesterday. This time it was 100% success in finding what I want. Maybe the first one was just not organized well, who knows? I still stick to some of my earlier comments about the future of certain items in these stores.
The second part of my trip was to another big book store. This was a total failure again, I couldn't find what I wanted. I don't know if they have it and it was just misplaced or I was looking in the wrong place. No realtime inventory, no good sorting, how can anything be found in these places other than top 100 best sellers.
I just wanted to say that friends are awesome. I talked to Heather tonight for the first time in a few months. This is after she did me a huge favor the last time I talked to her. Sometimes I don't keep up with friends as well as I should. I try though, I really do.
The other thing I realized today is that online I talk more regularly with my women friends then my male friends. Of the friends I talk to daily or so, 4 are female and only one is male. Maybe this is because I talk to the males in person more often, dunno. This is just strange for a guy who only 3 years ago had basically zero female friends. Who knew?
Toshiba continues to drag their feet as much as possible on the Tecra S1 problem. They won't own up to the problems to the parents. They also have no contingency plans if this latest fix doesn't work. Ugh.