Thursday, November 05, 2009

Still Trying To Catch Up

Still trying to catch up after being out of town. I finally got my car cleaned up. Woohoo! Of course I am packing with stuff to move along that has been piling up in the house, but I am making progress.

I have a couple of books I wanted to talk about, but I think I am going to leave that for now and get back to work.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Halloween Idiots

Over the weekend my nephew was mugged for his candy. Although loosing the candy was annoying, the bigger problem was the assault on him. Fortunately all is well, BUT:

  • The idiots who did this got lucky that his mom saw it and not his dad while driving around. Otherwise they may have ended up in his tire tread.
  • They are equally lucky that the people a few houses away, who get help from my nephew on a regular basis and view him as a son, did not witness the 3-on-1 attack and make use of their concealed carry permits, gunning them down where they stood.
  • Fortunate that his dad or myself had not heard him yell. We were at the end of the block. We were outside handing out candy and talking. His methods of 'subduing' are rather painful and don't leave marks. Trust me - I have been victim of them myself growing up. He will also ensure you are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. A 3-on-1 attack where you are all 6 inches taller than the victim don't go over well with judges, and especially juries.

Since my brother grew up on the block and most everyone there views him, and his kids, as family the only thing your $4 or $5 worth of candy has bought is some short term joy and a chance that no one on the block will hand out candy next year.

Thank you for ruining Halloween for everyone in the future. (Where is that sarcasm font...)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Conference Ho!

As usual I am getting ready to head to the For Purpose Conference. My usual 'oh my god I have so much to do how can I ever go' phase passed quickly this year. I still have a few things to buy and I always have to do a load or two of laundry the day before I leave, but everything has come together nicely this year. Now to make the job hunt go this smoothly :).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Move Along - Nothing to See Here

Things have been pretty dull here. Aside from a cold the most exciting thing, if you can call it that, is the passing of Bright Eyes. She was 17+ years old when she passed on, so she had a good life. The others are enjoying the extra attention since Bright Eyes is not around to hog most of it, but otherwise things have been much the same-old same-old.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Problems with cats

Today I have a leg that looks like a scratching post thanks to the kittens. A week ago it was ok when they would attach themselves to my sweat pants. Today they are getting through the pants and scratching the crap out of my legs.

On the opposite end of the age range, Bright Eyes is not looking too good. She is 17, possibly 18 and not moving very well. There is not much I can do for her other than make her comfortable. I am setting up a litter box up stairs for her and the little ones who cannot get to the basement yet.

The funniest thing though has been meal time. The older 2 cats have gotten soft food and the younger ones have been eating hard food. Aside from mom getting into the trash from time to time to clean off a bone, that has been how things have been. Lately though 2 of the little ones have been going out and pushing the older, larger cats aside and eating out of their bowls! The first time I saw it I thought sure the little one was going to get slapped around, maybe even bit but the older cats just either moved aside to share or, in the case of 12+ pounds of Fuzz Butt just run away.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I was able to make MWGB for 1 day. Traded 18 pathtags and caught a half dozen or so caches while in the area, plus the poker run. Next year I hope to make it for most of the bash.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Quick Note

Just a quick note to let people know I am still alive. I have been busy with things & babysitting so not much interesting has been happening.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Working The List

I have been clearing off my todo list after a week or so of ignoring most of it. It feels much better to actually clear things off. Not quite as good a feeling when you finish a project like cleaning a room or building something but still good. I was surprised how much dirt that you can't see got picked up my the sweeper today.

I have been cleaning out some things that have been sitting around for years in some cases. Obviously I am not going to use these things, so it is time to move them along. Once I get the main level cleaned out then it will be on to the basement & attic. I have been trying to locate some old cassette tapes but I have not been successful. I am not as concerned with those areas though.

I have been getting things done that are not on the todo list as well. David Allen might hit me, but there are some things that just do not appear on my list that I still need to do. This has been a slow process.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Clearing Out The To Do List

Oh, and I am with kittens.

I have been slacking off for the last week or so with getting things done. Yesterday started a new week and I am really getting caught up with things. I finished off a book that I have been wading through. Great content - just very dense with information! I will talk more about that yesterday.

Last Thursday though was the big day for Buddy - she finally had her kittens. Five of them unfortunately which means that some of them will have to go. I have a 3 cat limit, although with one being 17 I am going to keep 1 of the kittens. Sure some cats live to be 20, but with her early life I doubt she will make it that far. I would keep 2 if need be, but I would prefer to limit myself to 1 of the kittens. Next I need to find out when I can take Buddy to be fixed and when I can start to get rid of some of them. It might sound cruel, but I do not have the money to make sure they all get fixed to stop this from happening again. Plus I do not want to get too attached :).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Voted Today

I voted early in the mayoral recall. The process was mostly painless but took a little longer than I expected. Given the HUGE ballot of 1 item I would have thought things would have moved along quicker.

I voted against the recall. The biggest reason is that the people FOR the recall have not made a good enough case to roll the dice on god knows who.  Even worse the election is costing the city money that they claim is being mis-managed currently.

I do agree that our current mayor suffers from foot-in-mouth disease a little more often than he should and tends to let ego get in the way. And maybe after 20+ years we could use a different ways of doing things. None of that is just cause to remove the mayor midterm, in my opinion. If you did not like the mayor, maybe you should run against him at the next election.

I do not care what party people are from. I vote for the person I feel will do the job best. So far no one has offered me a good enough reason to vote for them as mayor of Akron. At least I know what I get with the current mayor.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Glad Crazy May is gone

May seemed to be the psycho month. Lots of weirdness - spent a lot of time helping my brother on some must do projects, dealing with a pregnant cat and one who seems to be incontinent. Also getting 100+ emails a day has made for a busy month. Now it is behind me and I can get things back to normal. (We will see about the emails...)

On the cat front - I knew that Buddy had gotten out before I could get her to the vet. I was hoping that nothing happened, but just like a horny teenager she hooked up, probably multiple times. Yea, I know having a female cat named 'Buddy' is weird. That is what my nieces & nephew took to calling her before we found out it was a her. My guess was she was not too far off of being weaned when they found her. Friendly enough cat (as can be seen from her current state :)), and see seems to get along with Fuzzbutt. If nothing else she is the first cat I have had that actually uses the scratching post! With any luck she will have just one kitten. As I told my brother, if it is just 1 I might keep it since Bright Eyes is 17. It would violate my 3 cat limit, but like I said Bright Eyes is 17. Still cranky as ever, but 17 is getting on there for a cat. Once the kitten(s) are weaned though Buddy gets to see the vet.

I have been programming. I found out how to set the playback speed on Windows Media Player (WMP) to 2x, so I am back to using that when I am at my machine. Great for listening to Podcasts, however I still have the problem of maintaining the play count between iTunes & WMP. Fortunately with a little digging on the Internet & some quality programming time (in 15 minute increments :( ) I was able to update the play count between both programs.

Next I want to add deleting podcasts that I listened to 2 or more months ago. This is the same criteria I usually use for keeping my email clean - after 2 months if it is in the delete or sent folder I kill it off. Important emails are saved out of the email system. I want to do the same with podcasts. The big problem is that the last played date is read only in WMP. I have not tried updating the field in iTunes, but it is easy enough to check either date. The one variation I do want to create on this one is creating a file for what will be deleted with the next running of the program. That way I can take the time to move any files that I may want. I would say 99% of what I listen to can be deleted afterwards, but there are a few shows, such as Manager Tools, that are nice to go back and listen to.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Move to Mac? Not based on iTunes

With the death of my old MP3 player I have been trying to use both my iPod Touch and iTunes to play my podcasts. As I have said before, I am not happy that iTunes, natively, does not allow you to adjust the playback speed of the file. The iPod will allow a 20% increase in speed for audio books. There is an easy to flag files as an audio book and it does seem to work.

One option to get variable playback speeds I read was to use Quicktime Pro. At $29.99 it is not a bad option. I double checking something online about the variable playback speed in Quicktime Pro and found that in Quicktime 7.0 variable playback was built in. No need to go Pro. Bonus!

Well I did try it on one file and truth be told the playback at double speed was pretty nasty. Admittedly the file I picked had bad audio to start with. I will try it again with another file. This still leaves me with the problem of updating the play count in iTunes manually. No worse the using Windows Media Player, which only gives me a 40% increase. Then again Windows Media Player also has a MUCH better interface than either iTunes or Quicktime.

The frustrating part of this is, at least according to the Wikipedia entry for iTunes, is iTunes is just a front end for the QuickTime player. It is not like the ability to do this is not there (assuming Wikipedia is correct about that).

For a company that prides itself on a superior user experience and a slick user interface, they sure do fall short with iTunes on Windows. They can't even play the "it's Windows" card - the Apple version of iTunes has the same problems. To me they are missing two key features:

  1. The Now Playing list - a temporary play list that you can add files to on the fly. When you close down the player, the play list goes away. The allows the cherry picking of files to listen to now without creating a formal play list and then deleting the files. (Oh, and shuffle does not work if you have audio books from places like Podiobooks. Some of your files have to be played in the correct order.)
  2. Variable playback speed for all files. At least all audio files. Hey, I don't even mind a little "chipmunking" of the voices. If I am playing the files back faster, I expect the tone to shift a little.

One other minor feature, that was there at one point, is the ability to create smart play lists based upon something in the file name. That would allow me to have the unplayed podcast play list to use. Another example of how iTunes falls short of Windows Media Player.

This may not sound like a lot, but for me these are critical parts of my listening experience. These are things that their users have asked for in the past (partially). If Apple cannot beat Windows with a simple media player, how can I trust their machines to be better?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Trackable Keeper

I have been trying to find some projects that not only are helpful to me but allow me to learn some things about .Net and C#.

I love to go geocaching. Geocaching has these things called travel bugs. These are usually little toys with a special dog tag attached. You can move the travel bug from cache to cache and track that movement with the special number from the dog tag.

To take things a step further. there are also geocoins. Geocoins are, well coins, that are trackable just like a travel bug. The problem with the coins are that people tend to steal them. Now if you send out a travel bug, you are out about $5 for the dog tag and usually less than that for the trackable. Usually people steal their kid's McToys and pick up the dog tags on special. Also dog tags come with a duplicate so you can send out a lost travel bug again. But once a coin is gone, it is gone.

As result of this, many serious (and the not so serious) coin collectors do not send their coins out in the wild. Instead they take them to events for people to "discover" - a way of saying you saw a coin (0r other trackable) without actually moving it from a cache.

The problem with this is the nice people over at do not allow what they call 'virtual discoveries.' This is where someone, hopefully the trackable owner, puts out the special number for people to discover the trackable even if they have not seen it. If they suspect a trackable's item has been compromised, they will lock said trackable so no one can discover it.

Now, I like to share my coins. And I take my coins to events all the time. To not offend the powers that be, I drop the coins at any event I will be at. Dropping them at an event is not a problem. Picking them back up is another matter. Now if you have a handful of them, it is not bad. When you get a couple dozen it starts to become a problem. When you get over 200, you want to take a an ice pick to your eyes. Ok it may not be that bad but it IS annoying.

Being a programmer I figured there is something I could do to help with this. Hence the Geotracking Tracker Keeper was born.

Each trackable has 3 numbers, 2 of which are of concern for this. There is the 'external number' - i.e. the magic number I talk about above that is on the trackable itself. There is also an internal ID, that you can get once you have the external number.

So, the program uses an XML file to keep these 2 numbers and 1 other field - a flag if the trackable is at an event. This allows me to snag some coins here and there as time permits without having to go through ones I have already picked up. How does it work? If I have the internal ID, I can go straight to the log page. If I only have the external ID I go to the trackable's page and then have to add the new log. In either case the external number is pushed into the clipboard so it can be pasted on the log to prove I have the trackable. I then just have to select the log type, date & enter a log (I usually just enter 'Pickup' for my own coins). Once I close the browser the program brings up the next coin.

This program is, really, not that complicated if you look it. Launching a process and waiting for it to finish is not tough. At least once you find the write part of .Net it is not that tough :). I would like to find a way to push keys to the browser, although I am not sure if that would be useful for selecting the log type. XML was used in case I ever decide to rewrite this program in another language (like Ruby or JavaScript). There is no major search or reporting done on the data so SQL seems like overkill. Also lots of APIs work with XML, including RSS, so learning some of the XML tidbits in .Net is worth it.

A side benefit of what I have done is I can create lists of coins from other cachers and of trackables that I find at events and discover them. Same basic process, but I have an XML file that stores the coins that I have discovered in the past. Since I have a couple of coin hounds I can just write down whatever coin codes they have and not worry about if I have discovered it before - the program keeps track for me. By keeping these in my Palm or iPod I can get them in a text file, which of course I setup the discovery part of the program to read.

Future thoughts on the program: I slapped this together so I could use it. I would like to go back and refactor large parts of this. One example - a wrapper around the file selector code. Cut & paste reuse is not good. I also would like to setup an object & collection to wrap the logic. I could have done this all the first time, but this also gives me a chance to stretch my refactoring chops.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Few Random Thoughts

It has been awhile since I last posted and thought I would throw out a few random things.

R. I. P Nomad Jukebox. My Creative Nomad Jukebox up and died on me. I loved this MP3 player because it felt sturdy in my hands, held a metric butt load of music & podcasts and let me play everything back at 1.5 speed. The music still appears to be there, but none of the meta data is there so I have no real idea what I am listening to. The biggest issue is when plugged into my computer it is not acknowledged as an MP3 player anymore. I tried both a standard reset & hard reset with no luck. That leaves me with my iPod Touch, which I am not very happy with. I did find a way to get my podcasts to play back faster, but there does not seem to be an automated way. So every time I get new podcasts I need to manually mark them as audio books. Arg! Better than nothing.

Keeping my brain from turning to mush. I have to admit it would be too easy to just veg out and watch TV all day between sending out resumes. Fortunately I have a couple of programming projects that keep me off the streets & not in front of the TV. The first was my Geoaching Trackable Keeper. Hey, I'm a coder not a marketer. It helps me pick up my geocoins after I drop them at an event. It also helps with discovering coins that I see at events but I am not moving along. I might be sharing this one with a couple of local coin hounds so I need to clean it up. More on that later. I also have an email program I want to work on to help when I send out emails for For Purpose, Inc. That has run into some snags. I also have an idea to generate a field note file for geocaching to help log temporary caches at events. None of these are glamorous programs, but they help me to work in C# and explore parts of the .Net framework. I still have some ideas for creating something long the lines of Eva. I like the idea, but I think my version would revolve around things like sending a tweet or getting something on my shopping list. If nothing else I will be kicking the tires of some APIs while trying to get the program up and running.

House & Lawn Care. I have been working on knocking out some projects here at home while I have a chance. With summer coming the lawn will start to take priority, along with some outside projects. I want to fertilize this year. I am not sure the lawn has ever been fertilized and it is starting to show it. I will probably not be able to swing the stuff I want to use, but it needs something. One other outdoor project I should be able to get done regardless of my employment status is a new address sign for the front. The one my brother made for mom years ago is showing its age. I would love to get the house painted and a couple of windows replaced, but those things can wait if need be. Inside I already have the programmable thermostat, I just need to set it up. The bathroom will be getting some TLC next. Mostly little stuff with little cost involved.

Walking. I am having some problems getting going. The Spree For All showed me I am not as ready as I thought. The bigger issue is still getting the routine established, which is going tougher than I thought. Mostly it is mental - since I am still building my endurance back up I am not walking for a long period of time. So it feels like a waste when I head to the gym on a bad day and walk for 10, maybe 15 minutes. Once I get past this hurdle and I am walking for longer than it takes to go to/from the gym things will be better. To just get to that point.

iPod. I am still liking it for the PDA type stuff. I need to find a better calendar program for the desktop. Google Calendar is great, but not convenient when working with Maybe I need to dig a little further in getting that info to automatically flow to Google Calendar. Battery life seems ok, although it seems to go from 'no problem' to 'charge me now' with little notice. On a road trip yesterday I played music for 3 hours (1.5 hours each way) and the power indicator did not move. Today after not playing anything and being in & out doing PDA things it is down to half mast. Weird. I am glad I had it yesterday though. I did not write down the address of where I was going (thought it was there) so I had to steal borrow some wifi to get the address.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I have been doing a variety of  fun things which have taken large parts of my day. A lot of it I figured I might as well do these things now when I have more time. That has taken me away from the computer and my to do list.

The one stop I truly wanted to do was at the closest Art-O-Mat. These are refurbished/repurposed cigarette machines. Not sure when I first heard about these, but I have to say it is just a cool idea. Here in Ohio I think these machines are not allowed to dispense cigarettes anymore. It reminds me of one of those gum ball machines that would dispense little toys as a kid - you get a semi-random piece of original art. I say semi-random because at least the machine I visited you had some idea of the type of art, but not the specifics.

The closest machine was about 2 hours away. It was a yuck day outside, and I combined it with some geocaching. It was a good day for this however.

Of course after going down there I spent some time kicking around their website and now they will send out the semi-random packages of art to you. Not quite the same experience, but a good idea.

Now, to figure out a good place to get one here in town...

Monday, April 13, 2009

iPod Touch Life Balance Review

I have been a long time Life Balance user. This program works the way I think and has a lot of great features. They also have a great forum with lots of material for first time users.

In a nutshell, Life Balance is a to do list manager that uses an outline to keep your list in and gives each task an assigned task. Each task is given an importance relative to its parent - a much different idea than most to do list managers. Places can be given hours of operation, so you can eliminate tasks that are not possible based on the time of day. Tasks can also be assigned a due date or a routine with a variable lead time for each task. Locations can also contain locations - sounds weird but has some great applications. For example, you could have a 'Home' location that includes your Home Office, Errands and Yard Work locations. Looking at 'Home' is an overview of all those tasks. Then you can decide to hit the yard, office or road and switch to the smaller list of items.

The other part of the program, one which I do not use, is to weight the tasks based on how balanced your life is. I prefer to use a 'pure' to do list based upon the priorities I setup for each project/task. However if you want to get a better work/home balance you can use this to push your weaker areas up in priority.

Overall I have to say the iPod version is very close to the Palm version. There is a lot of functionality there, some of which had to be replicated because other built in apps were used.

There are a lot of screens to flip through to enter a task, however this seems to be the norm for iPod apps. Not sure I can blame them. I do not like the way you pick a date for a new task. Instead of 3 or 4 different spinners for different parts of the date (month, day, year) you get 1 spinner with the complete date. Not bad if you are setting a date a few days in advance, but a pain if you are setting something a month or more in advance.

I miss the color coding/icons for past due or future events. This was great and let me know what needed my attention and what I could put off. Future events sometimes get a bump in priority over one-time items on the to do list.

There is no purge on the iPod. It is available on the Windows desktop, but that is somewhat annoying when you are used to having it right there on the unit.

The other problem I have is syncing the app with the desktop. I can send/receive the file with no problem. Syncing always times out. I have not changed anything on the desktop so it should just be pulling in the changes from the desktop. Maybe the latest upgrade will fix that.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The iPod Touch - A Mini Review

Ok, I have to admit I am not a big fan of the iPod. Looking at them from their first release through the Touch mostly they looked small, fragile and a pain to use.

However Palm previously announced they were going to retire their current operating system. I love the program Life Balance on my Palm. It is available on the Palm OS, which is going away eventually, and the iPhone/iPod Touch. Sigh. Since I have found some items dating back to 2001, giving up Life Balance would not be easy. I could follow some of my friends' advice and stock pile Palm devices so that I can keep using Life Balance indefinitely. However I figure time marches on and many of the programs I do use for the Palm have fallen in complete abandon-ware or purely bug fixes. It is time for something new, and the iPod Touch is just the ticket.

I have a 32 gig iPod using version 2.2.1. My thought was to use the Touch to listen to podcasts as well, maybe as a complete replacement for my existing iRiver Nomad that has also fallen into the abandoned hardware pile. More on my reasons why I am skipping that later.

Physical - I thought the physical size of the Touch was going to be a problem. Now my hands & fingers are not huge, but having seen the controls on past units, and the size of Shuffles, I was worried.  I have used some of those little phones in the past and not felt comfortable with them.

Actually I like the feel of the Touch in my hand. I would not mind it being a hair wider, but it fits easily into my shirt pocket and my thumb hits just right to adjust the volume. I would move the on/off button more toward the edge. Could be I am holding it all wrong, but usually one of my fingers just about hits the edge of the button. I have yet to accidentally turn it off, but it is something I am aware of.

The earphones do leave a lot to be desired. They look nice, sound good enough, but for me they do not stay in the ears that well. When I bought the Touch the sales guy suggested I get a better pair of earphones. I have a good pair so passed, but now see why he made that suggestion.

Battery Life - Since I use my Touch primarily as a PDA, the batter life seems good. I usually get 2 days use out of a full charge. Now I realize my usage is not typical - I play back audio maybe a half hour a day and video another half hour. I do lots of on/off with getting into Life Balance or a game or two of Euchre. I do leave WiFi on, and use it to check the weather & stocks (still have pending options to sell...).

Audio Playback - This is what disappointed me the most. My current MP3 jukebox allows me to play any audio file back at 1.5 speed. This is great for podcasts that are all talking - everything is still easily understood but it takes less time to listen to. A win-win in my book. The Touch only allows audio books to be sped up. At least from what I have seen in the menus and from a quick online search. iTunes is the same way. Until my MP3 player completely dies, looks like the Touch is going to be left to hold some transitory audio files and new songs to listen to.

Video Playback - I had a few videos from the Dawn & Drew show, 5 to 6 minutes each, a longer video from Scott Sigler, and a couple of episodes from TV shows I had previously downloaded. All played back fine. Not sure I would want to watch a whole movie this way, but the occasional TV show would be great. Now if I could get my TiVo to start downloading shows to my computer again, maybe I could get caught up on all the recorded stuff :).

Apps - The main reason I got the Touch. After getting Life Balance set up and making sure it was going to work (a review in a separate post), it was time to dig through the App Store to start replacing apps.

What comes with the phone is not great, but will get you up and running. One thing I had gotten used to on the Palm was having apps interact. For example, Life Balance could pull/push items  to the ToDo app, the calendar app and others. This made for some interesting work flows with apps. This kind of interaction does not seem to exist in the apps. Pushing something out to a calendar, or a text file, does not seem to come easily. This is where I am going to miss DayNotez - it was great to check something off, have it pushed over to DayNotez and if ever questioned when something was done I can look back and find the reference in DayNotez easily. I should grab the desktop version and hope for an iPhone version.

Aside from Life Balance, the next 2 biggest apps I need to get was something to record receipts in to upload to Quicken desktop and a list maker.

There are lots of apps out there, and the biggest problem is finding something that is actually useful. Useful being defined as 'works close enough to how I work.' Sure there are lots of list programs out there. I only found one that works for me. You see most of my lists are lists I use over and over, so I need a way to clear out the selected items the next time I use the list. Most of the list programs to not handle that.

Although all the apps I have seen so far look good, I would like to see more apps that capture data for off-line viewing. The PocketFlicks app ties into your NetFlix account and pulls down your queue. It does some queue management features, but to me the biggest sell for the app is it stores the queue info so I do not have to have WiFi to view my queue. So if I am renting or buying a video, I can check my queue for things I know I want. I would love to find a similar app for my Amazon wish list. I have been using that as a parking lot for various things that I would like to get but never have access to it while I am the store.

So far my only complaint on missing apps is something that will work with Quicken on the desktop. Part of the problem is Quicken - you cannot send transactions to some account types anymore. Sure there are hacks, but why jump through hoops. All I really want at this point is an app that will let me enter & classify receipts and then add them to Quicken, much like what PocketQuicken did on the Palm. Actually Pocket Quicken did much more, but I just described my primary use. Balances, reconciliation, etc. are nice but far from necessary.

Aside from spending much more time in Quicken, the biggest adjustment has been in using various Google Apps to get things onto the Touch. I have switched over to Google Calendar, Notes (which is no longer being developed, but I found an app for) and Gmail's contacts. It is taking some getting used to, but now I am getting 1 calendar, 1 list of contacts, etc. instead of having one set on my Palm, one set on my desktop and 1 set in the cloud. Once I get it all sorted out I should be more efficient.

One thing I have noticed about apps though - some sync with the desktop through iTunes and some do not. Reading from the Life Balance advice book, they claim they are not allowed to sync through iTunes and go through Bonjour. MPG uses some desktop sync software it created. I have yet to see what SplashShopper does. Yet gNotes, which works with Google Notebook, syncs through iTunes. A little consistency here would be nice.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Time Warner Expands Internet Usage Pricing - Could Stifle Web Video Use


Update: AT&T is testing 20-150GB DSL plans, and I'm wondering if Netflix should show you how many gigabytes you've streamed in the past 30 days.

Businessweek reports that TIme Warner will be expanding the Internet usage pricing model to additional markets. 

Time Warner Expands Internet Usage Pricing - Could Stifle Web Video Use
Fri, 03 Apr 2009 06:14:13 GMT

As I have said in the past, tiered pricing like a cell phone bill is the wrong approach. This just goes to prove it.

This is designed to do one thing - get you to spend more money with either Time Warner or AT&T. Ignoring video downloads for a moment, I am willing to bet your VOIP phone service through Time Warner will not count against your Internet usage, however using Vonage or other such VOIP service will. Same with AT&T land lines. In a way I hope that is true and they get slammed by the SEC.

One big problem is there is no competition in most places for high speed Internet. Last I checked I can only have Time Warner. Right now I do have Earthlink, however it runs on 'Time Warner's lines and once the contract with Earthlink is up I will get stuck with Time Warner's crappy data plans. Not that other choice is any better: AT&T is currently the only other option in town, but I am literally 1 block out of DSL range.

The tiered plan benefits no one. Most people, regardless of what they say, will end up paying more overall with no real benefit. If they REALLY wanted to help the average customer, they would go with a metered plan like electric or water. Grandma who only gets a few emails and photos of the grandkids would pay considerably less per month for the faster access, and those "bandwidth hogs" they talk about would pay appropriately for their usage.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Professional Development

Back when punch cards ruled and dinosaurs roamed the Earth I knew going into programming would mean almost constant development of my skills.

The technology is always changing - MS-DOS to Windows to Web to Web 2.0. Simple compile & run to fancy IDEs (integrated development environment). Objects to dynamic and functional languages. Even just different languages - my old job switched from Visual Basic to C# when we switched to using the .Net framework. The Pragmatic Programmer recommends learning a new language every year (among other things). As they point out - it gets you to think in different ways.

One of the big problems with any kind of education for programmers is good projects. The infamous 'Hello World' program just does not cut it anymore even as a first attempt at getting something to run. Some of the projects in books are OK for learning the basics of a new technology/language. Most, however, lack depth. Programs like Baby Smash give a little more to chew on and has the right size in my opinion.

Still, as I have gotten older sitting around writing code as an academic exercise just to be tossed out has lost a lot of appeal. Especially when I am not getting paid :). Don't get me wrong, digging into a DLL or other system on my own time that would benefit my work time is useful. But when I am just looking to exercise my brain it would be useful if I could work on something that would benefit me at home as well.

Project size has always been an issue. Too often I start down a path, the project grows (hey, just like at work!) then I get bored and move on. That or I get to a point where I cannot move forward and abandon the project. Moving forward may mean new hardware (not my strong suit) or the time investment does not seem worth the eventual payoff.

I have been reading about Casey Chesnut's eva project. Eva is a speech based virtual assistant, to quote the project site. I have to say there is a lot there to like. Casey has an interest in ubiquitous computing, something I find interesting but had not explored. Home automation was something I have always had a little interest in, but just never got around to exploring beyond setting mom up with some X-10 switches when she was on a walker.

Still, how to make something along the lines of Eva useful to me. Being a bad programmer I do not have a server setup at home. Yea, I know, hard to believe. I have no X-10 interface for the computer. Being out of work I am not sure this is the time to rush out and get a server & other hardware. I do have an old PC sitting around. Windows ME no longer works on it and I was going to scrape it out. The hardware was fine, it just needed paved over with a fresh OS. It might be able to take Windows XP if I upped the memory. It might be able to take Vista, except there is no DVD drive. I have thought about putting Ubuntu on it just for fun. Not sure how much time I would get to spend with it though.

I have a couple of little projects to explore in C#, maybe even in Ruby. After I clear them up I hope to start on something along the lines of Eva.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Operating Systems Don't Matter - I agree


Joe Wilcox over at Microsoft Watch today wrote a piece entitled "Operating Systems Don't Matter".


That, in my humble opinion, made all the difference.  Digital Research never went public and by 1991 had been bought by Novell and eventually faded into computing history.  Microsoft went public, kept buidling applications and, to my continuing bemusement, I now work there (not building applications mind you but creating tools for those that do).

Operating Systems Don't Matter - I agree

I have to disagree, to a point. The OS that does the best job supporting developers that make the applications matter. One thing Microsoft has done well is to suck up to cultivate relations with developers. Microsoft has tried to provide a way for not only professionals, but the casual developer as well to program. Even now you can get free versions of Visual Studio. Linux is free as well, but Visual Studio has more, or at least more civilized, support for the novice. Some of the Linux crusties can be brutal when presented with 'stupid questions.'

If another OS was to make programming easier, or offer more to the developer, they would switch OS's in a heartbeat.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Joining the gainfully unemployeed

Last week I was laid off from my job of 15 years. I wanted to hold off posting about it to let and residual anger subside. Not that I am really angry with the company, but like any ending or death, there are the stages that one goes through. Better safe than sorry.

Knowing the people who were let go in my department the whole thing looked rather random. There is a severance package that looks good on second glance. When you just learned that you will no longer have a steady income, no amount of money and/or other services looks like enough.

Officially I am still employed into next week, but there is a lot of things I need to do in the mean time (like get a resume together). Once I am officially separated from the company I will kick the job hunt into full gear.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Text to speech != audio book


wil wheaton vs. text 2 speech (Wil Wheaton)
Fri, 27 Feb 2009 22:20:27 GMT


I am not sure what the big deal is with this. When I first heard about the Kindle 2 and the complaints about text to speech feature I almost fell out of my chair laughing. I doubt even in my life time that a program will be able to as good a job as J. Random  Human. Even longer for someone with even a little acting talent, let alone a skilled voice actor.

The biggest issue I see with audio books vs. text to speech is timing. Seems that most books do not have an audio version at the same time as the print version, if any. For those who have a choice between the two it is no big deal. For those without a choice, like the blind, I cannot imagine the frustration of having to wait for the audio book to come out. If it comes out.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Netflix Customers To Stream More Movies Than DVD in 2009?



The only problem with FeedFlix's data is that there are only a small number of subscribers that are using the service, so I believe that the information reflects early adopters that are more likely to be using Netflix's streaming service. 

Netflix Customers To Stream More Movies Than DVD in 2009?
Wed, 25 Feb 2009 05:04:53 GMT

I have to agree with the above statement.

If I can stream (or download to a set top box) the entirety of Netflix's library then it a great idea. No waiting for the DVD to arrive. Being able to easier switch films based on how you are feeling is great. Hey I have run to rent a DVD just because I wanted to watch something funny and had only dramas at home.

However just as streaming/large downloads are becoming more common ISPs (Internet Service Provider) are looking to go to a tiered pricing plan. What do I mean? Think how your cell phone works - you get X number of minutes and have to pay, a lot, if you run over. The problem though is some ISPs are cutting off service when you hit your data limits. This is the wrong model for using the Internet, but that is a whole other rant :).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Getting caught up

I like getting caught up, or at least mostly caught up. Still have some emails to dig through.

At least on the up side, my Blockbuster queue is not accessable. I cleared out about a dozen or so movies that I had already rented.  I also got caught up with the Spiritual Cinema Circle DVDs.

Now to watch my birthday DVDs...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Blockbuster Eliminating Due Dates on In-Store Exchanges; Counting In-Store Exchanges as Part of Plan


Blockbuster is quietly testing the elimination of  due dates for in-store exchanges in two markets, and will roll this out to all customers in March. Blockbuster is also updating the website so that in-store rentals will appear in a customer's queue and rental history, helping to eliminate duplicate rentals.

Sorry guys, this is stupid. This will do nothing but confuse customers. Customers who are paying extra to have  TotalAccess. Customers who have gotten used to having the whole process of getting the next DVD in the queue sped up by exchanging the DVD in the store.

Don't try to pass this off as a service to the customers - this is a way to make money. That DVD we exchange at the store pushes off the shipping fees to the customer.

Between this move and not being able to get into my queue for about 2 months now I will have to seriously consider dropping my membership. (Oh, and yes the Blockbuster tech guys are 'working on it', and even offer free in-store rentals. Never mind that I have chewed through most of the in-store movies that I want to watch.)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Palm pulls the plug on Palm OS, bets the future on Pre's webOS - Network World

Palm pulls the plug on Palm OS, bets the future on Pre's webOS - Network World

I love the Palm OS - it is small, fast and perfectly suited for hand held use. This leaves me in a bit of a pickle. I love Life Balalnce software, but it only runs on Palm & iPhone, at least mobile. I also like to use Quicken and Pocket Quicken in particular to enter transactions on the fly. Quicken's on-line options do not sync with desktop Quicken. That is fine, for those who spend all their time online AND have a data plan on their cell/smart phone. Pocket Quicken also comes on Windows Mobile, but having used that in the past I do not really like it as well as the Palm interface.

No real rush - my current unit is still in good shape. Just need to make some time to do some research. I am sure I can find replacement for several the apps I use. Just one thing I did not want to deal with.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Getting caught up

January was a busy month, but I am finally getting some things cleared out. I hope to have more time to post, but right now I am still need to do some work.