Archive for April, 2006


At the second iteration of mindcamp. We’re not yet into the sleep deprivation phase, so I’m not sure how well it’s going yet. Have some nice photos, hopefully will be taking some more.


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Now that we’ve moved all the stuff from the old house to the new one, taking one 15 foot truck, one about twice the size, and innumerable car loads I can ssay with confidence:

We have too much stuff.

To a first approximation, that which was in boxes as of a few days ago is basically excess, with some small exceptions. We could live without it, and right now, a lot of it has actively negative value because we have to deal with it, either find a spot for it or get rid of it. That was probably 50% of the stuff.

I’m sure that we’d miss some of it — there’s some kitchen stuff that would be nice that we haven’t found. I can’t bear to part with books, even old engineering ones that I’ll probably never use again. But they’re books…

This is what happens when you go from moving quite often to not moving for seven years. Things that would get left behind somewhere get left in storage in the house. Two old laptops, three old desktops, and that’s just the macs. Hard drives galore, cables, keyboards, 5 dsl modems, and somehting like 10 pounds of power cables. This is the result of being a technological packrat.

Somehow, we’re going to get through it, I just don’t know how.

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BBye Sprint

I just cancelled the service and sent back the Samsung A920 phones. (This is the same phone that Sprint is sending to the influential bloggers with their ambassador program.) On the plus side, they would ring at the house. Also a plus, they could charge from the included USB cable.

Unfortunately, those were all the plusses, and that’s not enough for a $100 phone (after rebates and 2 year commitment).

To back up a bit, my three needs for a phone are:

  1. Works well enough at the house for reasonable calls.
  2. Syncs with iSync.
  3. The ability to somehow get my laptop on the internet for casual use, a few times a month max when I’m waiting for the ferry and need to send/recieve email or do ssh like things.
  4. Totally not important, but I’d like to have a Jason Webley ringtone.

Service at the house is hard, as we’re in a very marginal areay for anybody but possibly Nextel. Syncing is important if I’m changing providers, but not so much if I can just swap a sim card. And laptop internet is nice, but it’s certainly not an everyday need, more like a few times a month.

Back to the phone. The phones would ring, but it was very hard to hold a conversation indoors at the house. And it didn’t get all that better with better service — even when I had conversations on the mainland, they still seemed to have dropouts. Even my Tmobile phone can hold conversations outdoors.

The USB cable, while a somewhat useful charger, was nothing else on the Mac. No drive mounted, no use of the phone as a modem, no recognition that there was anything pugged in. Yay.

It paired with the Mac reasonably easily over bluetooth, but that’s about the extent of the bluetooth interop I saw. No iSync with the address book (which is why I wanted a bluetooth phone in the first place), although apparently there is a way to send individual vcards to the phone. No way to get them back off again. I couldn’t browse the phone, nor was I able to send any html, jpeg, or mp3 without getting a message that the file type was unrecognizable. For reference, this particular phone has a web browser, camera and mp3 player.

As far as I can tell, the only way to get a ringtone, background picture, or music on the device is to buy it from Sprint — ringtones expire after 90 days, music can only be played on the phone, and I’m sure that there’s some hitch about background images. Just goes with the territory.

And finally, there’s the internet issue. All the messages on the net say that for OSX, pair it, dial #777, and you’re on. Any PowerVision (evdo) plan is enough for casual use. Well, that didn’t work for me — I kept getting authorization errors. After three calls to tech support, several updates of my phone’s settings, repeated mentioning of the specific error number, and lots of testing that I could connect to the net with the built in browser, I got a tech who said, “Oh, we don’t know about laptops, you need to talk to advanced tech support.” Who took 10 seconds to tell me that I need a $40/month plan that’s not even listed to use the phone to connect the laptop to the net. (fwiw, the data plans are 15,20 and 25, as far as I can tell from the web site.) (and free for the ambassador type people)

That’s right, advanced tech support is the only one that could tell that error #57 (or whatecver number it was) meant I wasn’t spending enough money for it to work.

I guess another plus is that the camera didn’t suck, but since I never pulled an image off the phone, it’s hard to tell if it didn’t suck at 200×300, or really was a 1.3 megapixel camera. Compared to the Razr I had briefly and the Nokia 3660, the camera was great. Note that camera isn’t in the requirements.

I also don’t really like the design decision of putting a color lcd screen on the outside of the phone, then to conserve battery power, only leaving it on for 30 seconds at a time. Plain mono lcds are readable for the outside, and take nearly no power to leave on. I’m probably missing the settings for ‘answer the phone when I flip it open’, and ‘answer when I press any reasonable key’. I’m also missing the setting for ‘turn off the bloody animation’ and the theme that actually has any display contrast.

So back go the phones. I can’t justify (yet) $40 a month for internet access the few times that I’m on the ferries without the family. And I can’t justify voice plans when I can’t use them where I live and work.

To put this in perspective, I had Razrs from Cingular for two days a couple of weeks ago. Syncing took 5 minutes to set up when I was on the ferry. Never did get laptop internet working on those phones either, but then I never really got reception at the house. The Nokia 3660 (Tmobile) also has no reception here, but it syncs easily, has slower GPRS internet (or just plain old modem) and can take any old .wav file as the ringtone.

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Island Update

At the beach

Well, the house in Ballard is almost closed, original date was friday, then it looked like it was going to be put off two weeks(!), now it looks like monday. We’re almost done moving stuff from it and fixing the last of the little issues, like patching up the holes from the baby gate that the buyer doesn’t really want.

Cell phones still don’t really work, the Sprint ones ring and have connections, but the quality is really bad, even when there’s a decent signal, which there isn’t at the house. Despite having bluetooth, apparently the phones that Sprint sells don’t implement any of the useful protocols that would allow things like synching with our macs or changing ringtones. And apparently neither I nor the first three non-advanced technical support people couldn’t figure out that I didn’t order the correct plan that I needed to use the thing as a modem for my laptop. (So, bluetooth — next to useless on the Samsung A920 and the Mac, really don’t bother trying.) We’re almost down to Nextel now for a provider that works at the house, having blown through Tmobile (current), Cingular (shiny razrs), Verizon (by way of someone else’s phone) and Sprint. But Nextel’s data access is about as good as a modem from 15 years ago, so that’s going to be hard to take while waiting for the ferry. And their phones are clunky, expensive, and even less likely to sync than Sprint’s.

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I _am_ the e-Daddy

At the beach

Ben, being a toddler, mispronounces quite a few words. I’ve always been partial to inkuu (thank-you) and apaco (helicopter). Kwiwi. Sock, with an f leads to laughs. Embarrassed laughs. Appa Dooce. Dooce should come out with a line of baby juice products, just so that toddlers can ask for it by name.

But now I’m the e-Daddy, and this is my pluter.

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Stupid e-commerce tricks

So, if you’re writing an e-commerce application and you need to include 3000 words of terms and conditions, it’s really not that friendly to put it in a textarea that’s 4 lines by 10 characters. To read it, you really need to copy and paste it into another application.

Sprint, this means you.

But hey, it’s a textarea in a form. It’s editable. Rule #2, If you’ve got editable terms and conditions, check to see that what’s in there is what you expect to see.

So Sprint. If service doesn’t work here, you’ve just agreed to pay me $1000 and send me a pony. I agreed to it, and you accepted the agreement.

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Holy Grail of Consolidation

One of the things that most interests me about the Mac/Intel switch, apart from the promise of new shiny toys, is that I may finally tame some of the mass of cables and cpus in my office and consolidate the quantity of machines I’m running. Currently, I’m running windows for some client development, linux for server development, and the mac for my normal day to day desktop. Right now, due to historical and other details, that manifests itself in a loud, seldom used windows box, a rather quiet headless linux box, and a nearly silent mac mini with a nice display. Oddly enough, the only one that’s truly indespensible is probably the windows box.

Until last week, there was one piece of the puzzle missing, and that was the ability to actually run the other operating systems on Intel macs. Apple released Boot Camp, a way to dual boot their systems, and Parallels released a (beta) of their virtualization software using OSX as the host operating system. There are rumors of VMWare entering the fray as well, and I see no reason why they wouldn’t be able to do it as well.

Boot Camp is important, since it’s Apple’s affirmation that they’re serious avout having Windows run on their systems. Parallels’ system is at the very least a Holy Grail Shaped Beacon, since it enables simultaneous usage of linux, osx and windows on one cpu, without such 20th century drawbacks as rebooting. While it’s nice that Windows can run on bare metal macs, I just don’t see myself rebooting for it.

Personally, I’d expect to remove 2 mini towers at about 200 watts each, one CRT monitor, and a keyboard and mouse from my desk, not to mention the cables.

There are only a few technical questions left for my usage, what’s the performance like under load, what do I need for memory in the host system, and how do usb and serial connections appear to the hosted virtual machines. That woudl then leave thae all important funding question, but I’m hoping that I can swing that. But I’m guessing that I’d want to take two, a mini and a laptop, so that one could go on the road with me.

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If we had a garden that was missing due to browsing, as opposed having a garden missing for other reasons, I think that this might be one of the culprits.


There are also bunnies, but I haven’t gotten a picture of them yet. And goats, but they’re generally on a leash.

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You may have noticed the lack of pictures lately — between not taking many and not having my home network in one location anymore it’s not as easy to upload. Those two are related, tangentially anyway.

The last two weeks have been filled with moving to Whidbey Island and getting the house in Ballard ready to sell. One weekend of painting, without the rest of the family, One weekend of packing and moving, then one more weekend of painting, cleaning, and moving. This is the first day in two weeks that one of us hasn’t crossed the ferry.

Then in a sign that something is right in our timing, the tulips in the front garden came out in the couple of days before we listed the house, and the dogwood blossoms (seen in the header banner here) aren’t far behind. It’s on the market now, and people seem interested in it.

boy, outside

dougal, outside

playing in the yard

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