Browse Month: November 2011

11/30/2011

The end of an era is upon me. I’ve been hosting and managing a server for a client of mine, and it’s been running non-stop for years. I’ve blogged about it a few times here, here, here, and here. As of right now, I’m at 2,105 days:

16:46:26 up 2105 days, 19:47, 2 users, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00

That’s almost six years. To be precise, the server first came online February 23, 2006 and it’s been going strong 24 hours a day since then. No reboots, no power outages, no network glitches– just running merrily as designed. Pretty impressive hardware.

But this Saturday I’m going to physically move the server, and that means I’ll have to (gasp) unplug it. Sure, it’ll only be offline for a few minutes, but my sweet uptime counter will reset at that point.

It may seem like a weird thing to brag about, but come on… this kind of thing is worth a ton of geek cred.

11/29/2011

I got a new netbook today (Acer Aspires rock) and of course the first order of business was to peel off all the NASCAR-like stickers covering the thing. So long, “Optimized for Windows 7!” But I paused when I saw the sticker that said– in big red letters– “HD Internet!”

High definition internet?

I don’t know what that is, but apparently this netbook is awesome because of it. I’m excited to give it a spin and see what kind of high definition TCP/IP packets I can get over the wire…

11/28/2011

Josh is on the phone with a client and is actually walking him through using Windows Paint to take a screenshot so he can send it to us for troubleshooting.

Windows Paint. Wow.

11/25/2011

On Sunday afternoon I was sitting around playing Dominion with the fam and Dave called. We chatted for a minute and all of a sudden he said, “Oops, I have to go. I’ll call you back in a minute.”. He hung up, leaving me a little confused about what was happening.

A few minutes later he called again and asked if I was busy doing anything, and I told him I was kind of busy but I’d call him later. He said that was fine and hung up. Strange, but no big deal– Dave and I are like that sometimes. Just a random call, a few minutes of chatter, and we’re off.

A few hours later he called again. “Are you busy?” I wasn’t– in fact I was just about to call him. “Do you want to go for a drive?”

That seemed like an odd question, especially given the phone call earlier. Was he in some kind of trouble? His marriage? The law? I ran through a few possibilities in my mind and answered, “Sure, let’s do that.” Hey, I’m a good friend, right? If he needed some help burying a body I’ll at least listen to the story.

“Come outside. I’m parked in front of your house.” Wow, creepy. It was dark outside, and I grabbed some shoes and stepped outside and sure enough, there was a shadowy car at the end of the sidewalk. Lights on, engine running.

I climbed in and he just grinned. Then he shifted into drive and peeled out. We sped around the corner and up Pace Street to the highway. I realized the car was subtly different than what I remember. He’s been driving a sweet BMW for a few years, but he explained that this was a new one. An upgrade.

“It does zero to sixty in 4.8 seconds. Want to see it?”

Heh, who can refuse that? The light went green and we turned onto the highway. He floored it, and I can testify that he wasn’t kidding. Wow, that car had acceleration. I was pushed back into my seat and we hit eighty within maybe five or six seconds. It was a 65 mph zone so he eased back a bit, but it was awesome. My Civic just doesn’t have quite that same kind of zip off the line.

Anyway, we tooled around town a bit and talked about the features on this car. Nice stuff. He’d had it a few days but was already in love. Heck, I think I was in love too, just like the last BMW he bought. I was seriously thinking about getting one but his commute is something like a hundred miles each way every day and mine is about five. So obviously comfort during the drive is a little more important to him.

Important note: I love my Civic. It’s perfect for what I need and like. But come on– who wouldn’t trade up for a new BMW if they could?

11/19/2011

I really liked Seth Godin’s latest blog post:

No.
No, we don’t take clients like that.
No, that’s not part of what we offer.
No, that market is too hard for us to service properly.
No, I won’t bend on this principle.
No, I’m sorry, I won’t be able to have lunch with you.
No, that’s not good enough. Will you please do it again?
No, I’m not willing to lose my focus, and no, I’m not willing to compromise.

“No” is a hard word to say. (Well, not for little kids, I guess.) But it can be very empowering.

In my business this year I’ve been doing a little more of it, and not only does it feel good to stand firm, but in a few instances my client backed down and came up with an alternative that we were both happy to do. I’m slowly figuring out that being a good consultant doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing to any request.

11/17/2011

On a whim I took a snapshot of my water bottle.

GRU rocks. Twenty years of spirit.

11/17/2011

A few weeks ago I bought some Han Solo in Carbonite ice-cube trays from ThinkGeek. They were just too cool to pass up.

Although the ice cubes aren’t really recognizable as Han Solo, I thought maybe I’d have better luck with chocolate. So tonight I melted some chocolate chips and poured the liquid into the tray, then chilled the tray.

The result? Pure awesome.

11/17/2011

Here’s a great quote about what differentiates a good programmer from a great programmer.

The romantic image of an uber-programmer is someone who fires up Emacs, types like a machine gun, and delivers a flawless final product from scratch. A more accurate image would be someone who stares quietly into space for a few minutes and then says “Hmm. I think I’ve seen something like this before.”

11/16/2011

It’s nice to work at home and be able to step out for a while. I just went on a date with my lovely wife.

11/09/2011

So today I needed to build a new Windows server for a client. (Yeah, yeah, I know…)

I must admit I haven’t touched Windows in a long time, so I’m not familiar with all of the yummy flavors. This was a bit of an emergency, so I had to pick up a copy right away– which meant calling some local stores. I started with Best Buy. They’re my last choice for actually buying things, because their prices are most certainly not the best. But in a pinch, they’re handy.

I called and was transferred to the Computer department. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Do you sell Windows 7?
Sales guy: Yes, we do. Which version would you like?
Me: I’m not sure. What are my choices?
Sales guy: There’s Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate.
Me: Hmm. What’s the difference between Home Premium and Professional?
Sales guy: The Professional version has more professional features.

I absolutely swear that’s what he said. And it wasn’t a joke.

(dumbfounded silence)

Me: Okay, umm, can you be more specific?
Sales guy: Hang on– I have a Microsoft brochure over here.
(sounds of him fumbling around)
Sales guy: It looks like Windows 7 Professional has better connections for a business network. It also has more advanced backup options.

Side note: how does one get “better connections” on a network? Does the low-end Home Premium version drop packets randomly just so the Professional version looks like it’s smoother on the network? I don’t even know what that would mean.

As he stumbled through the brochure and a few more of the amazing professional features of Windows 7 Professional, I hopped over to Google and did a quick search. What I really cared about was which version runs Remote Desktop Server. It turns out Professional does, but that capability has been disabled in Home Premium. Nice. In the end, it was clear I needed the professional features of Windows 7 Professional, and the premium features of Windows 7 Home Premium just weren’t going to cut it.

Me: Thanks, I need the Professional version.
Sales guy: Okay, great.
Me: So do you have any in stock?
Sales guy: No. Let me check… (sounds of typing) … it looks like our Aurora store has a copy.
Me: I’d rather not drive 60 miles to Aurora. Could I just buy the Ultimate version?
Sales guy: We don’t have any copies of that either. But we do have four copies of Home Premium. Can I interest you in those?

(more dumbfounded silence)

Me: Umm, no thanks. Goodbye.

After I hung up, I was left with two thoughts:

1) Microsoft’s business model sucks. They intentionally cripple their software so they can charge more for “professional” versions, and then come up with stupid names that are really pretty meaningless if you want to know what you actually get in the software.

2) It’s no wonder I don’t shop at Best Buy.

11/07/2011

Today I brought a bowl of candy into the office. Josh grabbed a mini-bag of M&M’s and dumped it out on his desk. Five M&M’s rolled out. He grunted and said in a disgusted tone,

Fun size, my butt.

Indeed. Those bags are labeled “Fun Size” but come on, it’s hard to really have fun with five M&M’s. They need to be bigger. (Are you listening, Mars Inc.?)

11/04/2011

On Wednesday Alex received his school laptop. All of the students in the high school engineering program get a personal laptop to use for the school year. There’s a $75 fee but overall it’s a fantastic deal. And they’re brand-new Macbooks, fully loaded with all of the software you’d expect a high school student to need.

Of course the school says the students shouldn’t install anything on their laptops, because if they screw up something then it’s a problem for the school to fix it. Apparently there’s some fee you have to pay if you need the school’s IT department to re-image the machine. So they strongly discourage any sort of tinkering with the system.

So, predictably, Alex brought it home and immediately came down to my office and asked for the wireless network password so he could jump online and start downloading software. He wanted to get some “widgets” for his desktop: things like a weather app, a cool clock, a scientific calculator, a dictionary, etc.

It struck me as funny because that’s exactly how I behave. As soon as I get a shiny new toy, I want to pop the hood and see how it works, make some changes, tweak the settings, whatever. So I was completely supportive, and enjoyed watching him mess with the computer.

I think this will be a great experience for him, and really get him into computing more. He’s been saying for years that when he grows up he wants to be a programmer, but he doesn’t really do anything about it– like learn some languages or actually write programs– so I’ve been skeptical. Now that he has “his own” laptop he might start down that road. We’ll see.