I have created a new blog just for thoughts and updates on TechEd next week. It can be found here.
May 2005 Archives
In hopes that I will in fact soon have a functioning Internet connection at my house I have updated my Blog Map to the left. It may take a bit for the change to show up. My DSL modem is on a UPS truck and I am just waiting for this evening to see what happens.
I got up today and unloaded the car from the night before. Then I proceeded to work on the phone again. I looked at the two Network Interface Devices outside the house. Both were behind a large overgrown bush. I was able to use a standard phone to get to one of the NIDs and got nothing on the diagnostic jacks. The second one however was not as easy to get to. I went to Home Depot and got some hedge trimmers and a tone generator / tracker. I spent about 30 min trimming back the bush. Then I managed to get to the other NID. I found that the line 2 jack in the older NID was actually active. The only problem was I couldn't figure out where the other end of that line was. I hooked up the generator and then traced the wire in the basement. I traced the wire to a point in the basement and then it went in the wall. I finally found a jack that I hadn't seen under the counter island in the kitchen. It was active. Hopefully it also has the DSL on it. I will figure it out Wednesday.
Then I came back to Roger's for another load of stuff in my car. I also used the wireless and a tablet to do these posts.
I got up Sunday and unloaded my car from the night before. I then tried to get my phone working with not much luck. After that I finished moving and assembling my desk. Which was fun since it wouldn't really fit through the door into the room I wanted. I had to take it apart a bit to even get it in.
I went back down to Roger's and got there about noon. Travis was getting ready to BBQ. Later in the day Kevin, Jim and Karen arrived. Throughout the day I continued packing. I spent almost all the time rounding up various cables from the lounge, the TV room and my bedroom. I filled a large duffel full of wires. I also loaded up the last of the electronics from my bedroom.
Later in the night Kevin as he often does made a fire in the pit out back. As the night went on the idea of putting beers in the fire came up again. There were three beers that had frozen and mostlty defrosted so they were chosen. Travis put all three in. The fire had some really hot embers, even blue flame. At this point Karen and I swapped cars in the driveway. As we were walking back into backyard Travis was walking in totally covered in black. We walked out to investigate and apparently Kevin got impatient and poked the beers which promptly exploded flinging hot embers everywhere. Then a few minutes later as we were still trying to figure out what happened Kevin did it again. This one I saw, looked almost like a volcano. Hot embers and ash flying everywhere. The third beer was found shortly outside of the pit and was leaking a bit. Travis and Kevin put it back in and this time put lid on. I was walking away to go home and I said "Don't blow yourselves up" and just as I said it the third one blew. Fun times at the HoD.
Friday night I took an additional load of stuff to new house on way home from work. Then I returned to Roger's place to do some more packing. I worked on that until 11:30 PM or so. Then I got up at 7 AM and kept packing and loaded the car again. Travis took me to get the Penske truck at about 9:30 AM. I got back with the truck a little after 10. Kevin had stayed over the night before and was nice enough to help load the truck. We were done loading the truck and I mean loaded a little after noon. We went to grad some lunch at McD's. I drove the truck, Travis drove his truck with a bit of overflow and then Kevin drove my car. Kevin got seperated almost immediately from us, but luckily I had programmed in the address into the navigation system and he was able to make it ok.
Patrick met us at the new place a little after 2 PM. It had started to sprinkle on the way up. We started unloading the truck and it began to pour at one point. We waited it out for 15-20. We were done unloading the truck by about 3:30 PM. The hardest thing was the arcade, although it went down the stairs fairly well thanks to the hand truck with the treads on the back.
Patrick then took me over to drop off the truck. He helped me unload my car and assemble my bed. He left and I did as well. I headed back down to Roger's to get another load of stuff. I stayed and until about 9 PM. Sleeping was not an issue that night, quite tired.
After looking on U-Haul's web site I went to my local U-Haul location and made a reservation two weeks ago. I assumed that making a reservation two weeks in advance would be more than sufficient. When making the reservation the person at the store suggested I call a few days ahead of time to verify. I did just that today, luckily. The person at the store said they had 5 reservations and no trucks for tomorrow, yipee. She further went on to explain she could not contact the central routing people for U-Haul to verify and suggested I try to. I called U-Haul corporate I guess and waited on hold for over 30 minutes to be told they would let me know where to pick up truck by 5 PM today (the if I would get a truck part was left out). At this point I talked to a co-worker who recommend Penske so I went to them. I was able to get a confirmed reservation only at triple the cost. Moral of the story is I guess you get what you pay for. BOOOO!
I may have made my final long commute this morning. Hopefully if all goes well I will be moving this weekend and thus only communting 15-30 minutes each way instead of 60-120. Any suggestions on what to do with my new found 2 hours in the day? After unpacking and rebuilding my basement that is.
Apparently I am Mario, which I can surely accept.
I am Mario.
I like to jump around, and would lead a fairly serene and aimless existence if it weren't for my friends always getting into trouble. I love to help out, even when it puts me at risk. I seem to make friends with people who just can't stay out of trouble. What Video Game Character Are You?
"The other complicating factor, as we hinted at, is this: the lastLogonTimestamp is stored as a 64-bit integer. When you query the lastLogonTimestamp you don�t get back a date-time like May 15, 2005 8:05 AM. Instead, you get back the number of 100-nanosecond intervals that passed between January 1, 1601 and the time the user last logged on. (Come on: we�re not clever enough to make up something like that!) Consequently most of our code will be involved in taking that weird 64-bit integer value and converting it to a date and time."
I am just curious what the technical reason behind keeping time from 1601 for things such as this. Why not 1701 or 1901? Also why would you need to go that far back for something like last login time? Just seems odd to me.
Well they fixed the major problem with my car and for free under warranty. As a bonus they are going to fix the lights on the spoiler as well under warranty. I had them look at this when I took it in for the 90,000 checkup after Karri told me they were burned out. They came back and said it is an aftermarket part. This brought up the whole episode about the car not being ordered correctly and was a big hassle. Apparently the service guy and my original car salesman worked together to get fixed. Hopefully tomorrow I will get it back all complete.
The bad news is another day without my car. I have now lost 3 days worth of moving junk to new house. Kind of throws a kink into my whole moving plans. Ugh, to say the least.
Following in a recent trend by some other cities Baltimore now has its second round of animal art on display. There are now several hundred crabs placed around the city in what they are calling Crabtown. Each decorated uniquely and often in relation to their placement around the city. I have seen about 10 or so while commuting. Some are better than others. The previous effort was called Fish out of Water in the summer of 2001.
This type of art has apparently been a trend for a few years. It started in Europe first and then came to the US in Chicago. The display there was called Cows on Parade and happened in the summer of 1999. A bunch of other cities have done it as well since with different animals.
The other one that I have seen is what Washington, DC did. In that city they did what they called Party Animals. 200 Elephants and Donkeys representing the two parties were created and painted also by local artists. They came and went in the summer of 2002. It was so successful they even did a second round with Pandas called Pandamania in 2004.
I imagine the Crabtown crabs of Baltimore will come and go similarly this summer. It is an interesting idea for community good will and some fundraising for worthy causes.
Well I already talked about my car the other day. I did indeed take the car in for 90,000 mile checkup a little over a week ago. Then last night it broke and how. Something broke either in the power steering or the belt that runs it. At that point many things stopped working, including but not limited to power steering, AC and alternator. I called Lexus and they had a AAA guy come and tow it to dealer.
I got a loaner car from the dealer this morning. It is a Mazda 3 and I will have it until at least tomorrow. If I had known that this morning I would have taken the Jeep they offered and used it to move things. The next problem happened at the end of the day today when I returned to the loaner. I had left the lights on in the car and the battery was dead. In my defense I have had a car with automatic lights for five and a half years.
Moral of the story - I am not sure what can happen next. I am sure something will go wrong.
The wonders of AIM Video Chat. Last night my friend Chris and played with the new AIM video chat. It keeps freezing and on occasion would lock with a cool picture like the one to the side. Ah the joys of the internet. Hopefully this can be improved upon, still cool though.
I have now taken three car loads of stuff to my new house. Each day I am loading my car to the max and then after work dropping off everything. Mostly in these trips I am moving the stuff that isn't furniture and doesn't fit well into boxes. So far I am just making a massive pile of this stuff in the extra bedroom. I figure over the summer I will sort it out and put it away, just need to keep it out the way for the furniture move next weekend.
Well I saw this movie three times in a 36 hour period. It wasn't really planned that way, just sort of happened. I saw it first at 1 PM on Friday with a bunch of students and teachers from my school. Then I saw it at 12:45 PM on Saturday with Roger, Travis, Kevin and Josh. Lastly, I saw it at 10:30 PM with Patrick and Keith from work.
I really liked the movie. It was the best of the three prequels. It had some of the best action. The major goal was to tie together 1-3 and 4-6 and I think it did that quite well. There were some difficult dialogue scenes, especially between Anakin and Padme.
The thing for me is now viewing the six films as a whole. Many of the parts in 4-6 that were originally cliffhangers or mysteries would now be obvious if you watched them in order.
Friday night I did my first commute from my school to my new house. I left at about 5:30 PM and saw what I beleive is the absolute worst of it. It took me about 35 minutes to get home. However the first 2-3 miles took about 20 of those minutes. I think I just need to refine my route. I came back to the school at about 7 PM and it only took me 15 min.
Today at 10:30 AM I began the closing process for my house. It took about an hour becuase of a couple of glitches, but overall went well. My settlement company sent the closing documents to the home address to my attention rather than to the real estate office where we were closing. The selling agent went and recovered the documents which FedEx thankfully left. As we were going through the documents the agents noticed their fees were only 5% rather than 5.5%. Had to have a quick fix on that, which didn't change my amounts on the sellers. At the end we called BG&E to switch power and gas over, then called Comcast and AT&T to turn off service. I will doing DirectTV, Verizon and Speakeasy. In total the process took about an hour and was relatively painless. Apparently it is easier with NFCU since they never sell loans and thus need less paperwork.
A nice little bonus is that all the estimates for closing costs were very high it seems. My concern over having enough money were not warranted due to this which was nice. Also I get some kind of gift from my agent and my friend gets a refferal fee since she put me in touch with the agent.
Now to move.
Watched two movies today. First was National Treasure which I wrote about before when it was in the theaters. I thought I would talk about some of the DVD extras. Nothing earth shattering but interesting design. As you watched them you would get clues to unlock more and more. Pretty cool.
The second movie was Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. This movie can somewhat be defined by the fact that it came from Nickelodeon Studios and it is afterall based on the series of kid books. It is basically a kids adventure film. It has some funny moments and is pretty interesting. Probably not most adults cup of tea however.
Well Friday it was brought to my attention that my house appraised for less than the the agreed upon selling price. This is inconvenient to say the least. Now I am waiting to see what happens next. Either I come up with more cash (booo) or seller lowers cost (yeah) or some other middle ground I guess. Ugh. Hopefully this ends well next Thursday.
The other day I posted what I guess could be called a rant about compression testing of several sites. I specifically mentioned Jeff Harrell's site since it was the most recent one I read. It wasn't my intent to single him out and poke holes in his analysis, which I still can't see unfortunately. It was more a general commentary on how most reviewers do video compression testing.
Jeff saw my comments and that of others I would assume and did exactly what I mentioned. He got some HD footage that was essentially uncompressed, especially for normal human beings and their monitors/TV's. He ran them through some tests and posted the results. I highly recommend reading the entire string of articles in the series. I really look forward to when QT7 is released for the PC and I can watch them. Oh and Jeff I can't watch 1080p/24 either if it makes you feel any better.
In his weekly column Robert X. Cringely brings up an idea worth considering. Currently Apple has a device called the AirPort Express. This is an interesting device in that it streams music from a computer running iTunes wirelessly. More interesting to me is the fact that it has an optical out which is still a rarity in consumer electronics even in this day of digital audio.
The idea that Cringley puts forth is that Apple will have a follow-up device that will do video. It would in theory stream new Quicktime 7 H.264 content at resolutions up to HD quality. This would go along with a new movie download system to work within the existing iTunes store infrastructure. This can be seen to a degree already with iTunes now selling music videos, it isn't that much of a leap to full length HD movies.
The hardware to enable this isn't that far fetched either. Take the existing AirPort Express and integrate a new H.264 and MPEG-2 decoding chip. Broadcom has one available already and it will probably be the basis of the new DirecTV receivers this fall. Add an HDMI connector and it is done. Now you have a mini Media Center extender. Sure it is not as fully featured as current Media Center extenders or an Xbox extender, but it fits in the palm of your hand and would cost about $100. The only concern I have with this is bandwidth needed, streaming HD quality video even at H.264 compression levels is a whole lot different than streaming audio, close to 100 times the bandwidth. It is questionable if 802.11g can support this level. The current AirPort Express has a wired ethernet port and it can be assumed the new one would as well. 100 Mbps or even 1 Gbps ethernet would be more than sufficient for HD streams or even multiple. The computer acting as host for this wouldn't need much other than a broadband connection and a lot of disk space since it won't actually be doing any decoding itself.
I have been a subscriber to NFL Sunday Ticket for the last 5 or 6 years. In that time it has always been with Roger and then Travis splitting the cost. The cost has gone from about $150 to $200 over the years. Last year the HD versions of the games were included for free as part of the package. It was great, anywhere from 6-8 HD games a week. Now this year the base package has grown to $220. In addition you have to buy the HD games as part of a SuperFan pack for $99. This superfan pack includes some interactive junk, which doesn't work on TiVo's anyway. I am only concerned with HD really. Now that I have to pay for it all myself I have to decide if I want to pay all that much. I should be able to get both the DC and Balt feeds of Fox and CBS. This should allow me to get anywhere from 3-8 games and most of them in HD. Choices, choices.
Rather than digging around for boxes for the next few weeks I decided just to buy a bunch. They arrived yesterday and I figured I would pack some stuff. Well the kit had 6 medium boxes and I figured I would use a few to pack my DVD's. It turns out it took all 6 of the medium boxes. Hopefully I can use the small for books and similar. I am not sure what I will do with the large/XL ones, clothes maybe? Most of my stuff is book like, meaning dense and thus you can't do a large box of the stuff or it can't be lifted.
I saw a post today about a new Microsoft product called OneCare Live. This looks strangely familiar to a beta I worked on previously called PC Satisfaction. It was a nice product that just kind of died on the vine it seemed early in 2004. It may be back with the integration of Anti-Spyware. I will be interested to see it.
Xbox 360 is official
Well a bunch of the secrets slowly leaked out over the last weak or so, but tonight was the official launch of the next Xbox. I watched the show on MTV and I was actually impressed. It had just enough technical details to whet my appetite and probably more than enough for most people. They did a good job of showing of the console and controllers. There was also a nice sampling of game shots. It is too bad that the system is all about HD and then had to premiere on an SD channel. I also really liked the Samsung/Microsoft commercial, it bodes well for HD content. Now I want to know more and when I can get one. Hopefully by the time it comes out I will again have an HD capable display to use it with.
Well I missed the actual anniversary of 5/9 by a few days, oops. Nonetheless I have now been blogging for more than a year, kind of amazing and sad. As of 5/9 I had 278 posts. Not to bad, about a post every 31.5 hours. Sure there were empty stretches and days where I posted 5 times (today). It is interesting to be able to look back and see how my blog and I have evolved. I hope to be able to do some more work on the blog interface and such after I move this summer. Going to be a bit busy in the near future however. It is also amazing to see sometimes who reads this site, there aren't many for sure but never know who might stumble upon it.
Ok so I was already planning on taking in my car this weekend for a 90,000 mile checkup. I knew it was going to bad when the service guy felt it was necessary to give me estimate then. It was a lot lets just say, imagine a number for car checkup and then double it. Figuring that wasn't enough cost I added to it today. Somehow (tired maybe) I managed to clip a orange construction barrel on drive home. This incident managed to destroy the mirror and strip off the outer shell of the mirror housing. Luckily it doesn't appear to have damaged the arm or the internal controls. Somedays I just can't win. Hopefully when me commute is reduced to under 10 miles I won't have these problems anymore.
I am continuing to Beta test a new software version at work. In testing it I must upgrade it and run some conversion processes. It is at least a two step process and maybe three or four. The problem is that part one took 22.5 hours. This is on a desktop machine running Windows 2003 Server and SQL Server 2000. This is a P4 2.4 GHz with HT, 512 MB and 40 GB ATA 5400 RPM. The process seems to definitely be memory and then disk bound. Hopefully when it is done on our production server which is a 2.4 GHz Xeon (almost identical to the P4), 1024 GB and 36 GB RAID 15000 RPM SCSI array.
The second part was a merge process of the data with another system that had already been upgraded last year. This step takes roughly 1 minute per user. Which is ok since I could run it over night. The problem here is after running for about 5 hours the system ran out of virtual memory, which was set at 2 GB. The client shell that was doing the merge was using 300 MB of RAM and 1.5 GB of Virtual Memory. I think they might have a bit of a memory leak problem.
Hopefully this gets better before I have to deploy it in production. If not it might be tough to finish it over a weekend even.
There is a nice write up of Quicktime 7 and its use of the new MPEG-4 standard H.264 video compression implementation at Jeff Harrell's blog. I can't view the video yet since I am a lowly windows user and that version of QT7 hasn't been released yet. The one question that comes up in comparison and did in the comments of his post is about source material. Most video compression tests are done these days by re-encoding DVD material. While it is true that there are some very high quality DVD transfers out there, all of them are already compressed via MPEG-2 at a relatively low (for physical media) bit rate. In theory taking the same source, an HD Telecine in most cases, and re-encoding via H.264 there would be a choice of having a much lower bit rate and same quality or much better quality at the same bit rate. Unfortunately using an already compressed source you can never get any better than the original. What I would like to see is a HD source re-encoded using H.264 to DVD resolution using DVD bit rate and see the quality of H.264 vs. MPEG-2. Even HD is already MPEG-2 compressed though, so an even better test would be to get totally uncompressed HD feed and then see HD MPEG-2 vs. H.264 at a given bit rate. I don't have access to anything of this kind however so I can only hope someone else who does will run some tests.
A little over a week ago watched Meet the Fockers. It was pretty much as expected, an average comedy. There were several laugh out loud points but there were many slow points as well. Often the jokes just fell flat. Worth watching I supposed.
Yesterday we watched Elektra, Roger got it on Netflix I didn't buy it this time. This movie was just really mediocre. After seeing such good comic movies of late like X-Men and Spider-Man it just didn't live up. It wasn't as bad as Daredevil but not much better. There wasn't all that much action and very little character development. What little there was for the main character was all flash backs. If you like comic action flicks ok, if not pass.
If you are a company and you want me to Beta test your software on something as important as financial data it might be helpful to include a conversion manual on the install CD. Just a suggestion.
I just heard from my agent and the sellers accepted the list of fixes after the inspection. The major problem has already been looked at and is in the process of being addressed from what I am told.
Now I just have to make sure everything is in order on my side. Getting the check from Metlife. Making sure insurance is setup with USAA. Lastly, making sure any other paperwork with NFCU for mortgage is straight. Seems I keep making lots of fun phone calls everyday. Each one requiring more paperwork, money or both.
I had my home inspection on Thursday. My dad was nice enough to drive down and do it with me. The company that did the inspection was Home Advantage. The guy that did the inspection was very thorough, my dad even thought so. It took about two and a half hours for the entire inspection. Both the inspector and my dad were impressed by the condition of the house given its age. The major problem was the drain/pump/pipe in basement. Which was already covered in the original home contract. Some other things were a couple of broken burners and the deck in need of repair. Those things I would rather take care of myself. I turned over my repair requests to my agent yesterday and they should be to the sellers by now. Assuming everything stays on track I should close on the 19th of May.
Last night a bunch of us went to see the Nationals play at RFK Stadium (naming rights to be determined at a later date). It was Roger, Travis, Matt, Coleen, Jim, Kevin, Greg, Dan, Heather and SP. We were somewhat concerned since it began raining late Friday night / early Saturday morning and kept raining until mid-day Saturday. It stopped raining before we left though so we were hopeful. We rode the Metro down.
There was also a Wizards playoff game in the afternoon yesterday. There were some people who went to that game and then took the short Metro ride from MCI Center to RFK. One of those people happened to be James Carville. He is a big sports fan and is often seen around DC at various events. He sat down next to Dan and Heather. Dan said hi and not much else, kind of cool.
We got to the park at about 6:45 PM. The first pitch was supposed to be about 7:10. We found our seats which were really good for many reasons. They were in the upper deck almost directly behind home plate as you can see from the picture. Also they were covered and this will be key. I went to grab some food and the lines were already quite long. The staff there is ok, just not quick about anything. They are still getting up to speed I think.
The rain did come back about the top of the fifth inning. It started light at first and then really started to come down. They called the first rain delay in the top of the sixth inning. It was about 45 minutes including the time to get tarp on and off. During the rain delay the food stations (in the upper deck at least) began running out of food. By the end of it nothing but pizza was left. They started the game back up and it went to the bottom of the eigth until the second rain delay. Most of us left at that point since we assumed it would be called. It was about 45 minutes later.
A pretty good evening. Lots of fun and the Nationals won to boot.