Thursday, December 31, 2009

Three Days With The Motorola Droid

I've had my iPhone for almost 2 years. I was ready for a new device, but not an iPhone upgrade. For anyone that doesn't know, I stayed with the original 2G iPhone for the duration of my AT&T contract. When the 3G model was released, I opted to not spend $99 and upgrade the device.

I bought a Motorola Droid the other day, which means I'm now under Verizon Wireless. Wireless carriers need to simplify pricing. It's unnecessarily complicated right now. I just want to know how much it's going to cost me per month. I don't care about the breakdown.

Verizon was pretty nice to me in the store. I came in asking for a Droid and they asked me if I was switching from the iPhone. They were pleased that yet another customer was switching over to the Droid from the iPhone. They asked what I disliked about the iPhone and/or AT&T and what features of the Droid caused me to choose it over other smartphones. That was fun.

My contract with AT&T is not up until some time in January. I want to keep my cell number, but I won't be able to port it over until the contract is up unless I want to pay a $155 early termination fee. Verizon gave me a temporary number in the same area code, which was nice.

With AT&T, I get a discount on my monthly bill because I work at Red Hat. I mentioned this to Verizon when we were going through the complicated pricing options and they said, "Oh, we probably give you a discount too. What's your work email address?" They looked it up right there and it was in the system, so I get a discount at Verizon too. Nice.

So enough with Verizon, what about the device. What do I like about the Droid so far?
  • Physical as well as onscreen keyboard. I like having both. The physical keyboard isn't the greatest, but it's usable unless your fingers are too fat.
  • Sync with Google for phone data. I absolutely hated having to use iTunes to sync data to/from the iPhone. The Droid just pulls my info from Google. I keep my contacts current there and all is good.
  • Pulls OS updates over the air. Again, skip the iTunes step here to upgrade the phone.
  • The Droid works as a USB mass storage device, so plugging it in to a Linux system actually means you can do something with it.
  • Support for Ogg Vorbis as well as MP3 files. I just drag the music I want to a folder I create on the Droid and the music player finds the files.
  • Notification area. I like this Android feature. Running multiple apps at a time and each dumps info in the notification area. I like it.
  • Camera with a flash. Cameras on phones generally suck, but they added a flash, so pictures end up sucking just a little less.
  • Video recording capability. Apparently some phones have had this for ages, but this is the first phone I've had with video recording capability.
  • User-changeable microSD storage card. It comes with 16GB of storage on a little card about the size of an almond sliver, and the user can upgrade that to 32GB.
  • MMS support. Apple only enabled that for 3G iPhones, so my 2G hobo phone still couldn't do MMS.
  • A real headphone jack, as opposed to Apple's special narrow diameter countersunk headphone jack.
Is there anything I dislike about the Droid so far? Yes:
  • Some of the built-in apps on the iPhone I had gotten used to having and the Droid is missing a few. For example, there is no built-in app to track stocks. I can find one in the app market, but I don't want to go through the many available to find the one I like and that works reliably (anyone want to recommend a good free one?). Another I can't find on the Droid is the world clock and timer. The iPhone's clock program was a world clock, which was useful for me. The timer functionality is super simple, but was handy for things like laundry and whatever we just put in the oven.
  • No "Old Phone" ring tone. Stupid, but I liked that my iPhone rang like an old MaBell telephone.
  • The eBuddy IM app looked really cool at first because it sounded similar to Pidgin, which I use on Fedora. eBuddy does work, but it drains the battery like crazy. I want AIM capability, but not something that tanks the battery.
  • I liked the iPhone weather app for traveling. I just need to find one for the Droid, unless someone wants to recommend one.
  • The Droid doesn't actually come with headphones, so I guess I have to get those (or stick with the iPhone ones). Not that I want new headphones, I just think phones should come with some sort of hands free device to encourage people to be slightly less stupid with their phones while driving.
I would like to have sshd running on the Droid so I could scp things back and forth more easily.

And that's it for 3 days of having the Droid so far. I like it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

FUDCon Toronto 2009

I have not posted anything here in a while, so here are some comments about FUDCon Toronto.

Given that I live in Hawaii, getting to FUDCon can be a challenge. I have been able to make it to a fair number since I moved to Hawaii, mostly due to aligning personal trips to back up to work trips so that the cost of my travel is significantly lower than travelling from Hawaii. To date, the longest I've gone to make it to a FUDCon was travelling from Honolulu to Brno for FUDCon Brno in 2008. That was 28 hours of flying travel, an overnight in Vienna, then a train to Brno.

FUDCon Toronto was great. The facility was nice and there were a good number of talks across the board. I was able to go to a lot of sessions and number I wanted to go to but couldn't because of schedule conflicts was higher than it had been for me at previous FUDCons. I feel that FUDCon is starting to mature in terms of how things run and the information presented. Early on they were pretty disorganized, but things seem to work well this time.

The hackfest days were also productive for me, which is usually not the case for me at FUDCon. I think what worked well this time was that we all didn't try to do too much during the hackfests. Keep the scope down and just really work on the one or two things at the hackfest and it can be really productive. For me, I liked hashing out the plan for testing anaconda in the israwhidebroken.com project. I'm looking forward to working on that.

With all FUDCons, there are areas for improvement. Both as a conference as well as what I can do to better prepare. Namely:
  • It should have been called FUDCon Vaughn. While I liked the facility for FUDCon, the location of the hotel left few options for people wanting to socialize after a day of work.
  • Better coordination from the airport to the hotel. A $45 cab ride is sort of a waste for one person. I could have done better trying to find people to share a cab with.
  • POWER STRIPS AND EXTENSION CORDS! This plagues every gathering of hackers with laptops, no one ever brings enough methods to distribute power. I will start bringing an extension cord and at least one power strip, thus doing my part to help the situation.
  • Hotel wifi was weak. Everyone at the hotel would jam up the connection and no one was able to use it. Worked fine if no one else was at the hotel. The wifi at the university was good over the weekend, but it was really hard to use on Monday.
In short, it was a great FUDCon and I was glad that I was able to make it. I am on my way home now. To make this trip cheaper for me, I backed up FUDCon to my Thanksgiving trip. My flight back home is scheduled for tomorrow from ATL. In the past 21 days I will have flown over 11000 miles (17,703 km) and passed through 6 different airports (HNL, LAX, ATL, RIC, JFK, YYZ) and 2 countries.

I'm ready to get back home. Anyone else up for FUDCon Honolulu next year?

Monday, November 2, 2009

What Goes Here

I've had a web site for myself in at least some capacity since 1995 or so. Either hosted by an ISP or running off my own hardware. This was all before the notion of 'blogs'. I say a lot of things, but (a) most people don't care and (b) is this page really a good medium for the things I say?

Most of my commentary is centered around work or technical issues, something that causes a lot of shit from friends and family. I'm on Twitter and Facebook as well, plus I have a photo site. But really, the things that I take time to write now--meant for other technical readers--is in source code commits to various projects. Those are almost like a blog, really.

After talking with Logan (who has long since shut down his space on the web and decommissioned the remaining hardware that was once snarf and/or penfold), I have decided that this site is no longer necessary. Instead of hosting a blog, I want it to pull in my information from other sources. I have no idea yet how to accomlish that, but I'll figure something out.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Migrating Data From Other Operating Systems

Zoltanh721 posted on his blog today about migrating data from other operating systems when installing Fedora. See the post here.

While I agree that migrating data for users is something that would be of value, having anaconda do it is not really a great idea. I view migrating data as a different task than installation. Knowledge of where settings are stored and what data is actually important or what the user cares about is very application and OS dependent. It's not something we should do during installation, but rather offer it as something the user can do after installation. They may find that Fedora is not even something they want to continue using.

We already set up dual boot systems in Fedora just fine. Creating a new tool that can handle data migration would be helpful for users, but definitely out of scope of the installation process. When I start thinking about migrating data from another operating system, I think about these questions:
  • Should each application know how to import data from other, similar programs?
  • Should there be a central system that knows how to migrate data between operating systems or environments?
  • Really, aside from files such as documents and music (i.e., files that can be easily moved between platforms without much hassle), what things are we talking about migrating?
The Mozilla software on different platforms can import data from other similar programs, which is handy. Maybe a tool that exposes the data from the other platform and then launches the application on Linux to do the import would be useful. But again, this should happen once a system is already installed. You may use entirely different programs than I and want or need data imported differently.

Zoltanh721, good idea but I'd like to see implemented outside of anaconda. Oh, and if a project like this takes off, don't rely on partition IDs to determine what other operating systems are on the system. They mean nothing. libblkid will be more helpful.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Getting Autodialer Calls About Insurance, Mortgage, Your Wife?

Over the past couple of weeks, autodialer calls have started up on my cell phone...again. The numbers are all over the place as usual, but the caller ID is not blocked. The recording is roughly the same. It announces itself as Donna or Deborah and tells you to press 3 to have your number removed from the list. Then it tells you they have been trying to reach you about your wife for some time and if you have questions about insurance (???) to press 1 now. Press 1 now to speak to someone. Press 1. Press 1 for information about how you can save. Press 1. Press 1.

Choice seems fairly obvious. Pressing one routes you to the next available unlucky bastard who tries to sell you something related to your mortgage. It's email spam in phone form. I hate this stuff.

These calls are no different than the extended vehicle warranty calls from months ago, except this time I found the company behind it. And I called them. And they called me back and apologized and said that all of their clients would remove their number from their lists. Would you like to know more? Press 1. Wait, no.

Call 877-646-7319 and leave a message. I asked if this was the company behind the autodialer calls I just explained above. I asked for my number to be removed from ALL client lists and I want confirmation that my number was removed. I told them how to reach me and sure enough they called back and said my number would be removed and they even apologized for the calls.

I wanted to throw out some opinions about what a sleazy business model this is and it's really just a waste of time and money for everyone, but I decided not to. If the calls don't stop in 48 hours (the amount of time they asked me to wait in order for them to contact their clients), then they will get another call.

The company claims to operate in the central time zone, but I got a call back today at 3:00 PM Hawaiian time, so go figure.

Spread the word. This sort of behavior must not be tolerated on phones. They are getting you to pay for their advertising efforts.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

All Photos Moved To SmugMug

I have completed the move of my photos from Flickr to SmugMug. My Flickr account no longer exists. My new photo site is http://photos.burdell.org/.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Joined Twitter

I'm not entirely sure why either. Facebook decided to lose my profile page for the day, so I joined Twitter so I could say that. Hmmm.

At any rate, I am http://twitter.com/kb1pcx

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New TSA Rules In Effect

I noticed two new TSA changes in effect yesterday and one almost prevented me from getting through security. The first is the requirement of TSA that the name on your boarding pass EXACTLY match the name on the ID you are using to get through security.

Both my state of Hawaii ID and my passport list my first name, middle name, and last name. My Delta account has all of those plus 'Jr.' on the end because I am a Jr. TSA does not like this. They explained the rule change to me and let me go through anyway most likely because there was no one in line, but they really didn't want to.

I've decided to ask Delta to drop the Jr. from my account name since that will, in theory, be easier than changing the name on either of my forms of ID. What I wonder is the value of a suffix on your name. My passport lacks the suffix. But when you apply for a passport, you send in your birth certificate and they take the name from there. At least that's how it worked for me 10 years ago. So if the US Department of State doesn't think I should have Jr. on the passport, I don't think I want to change my state ID to include Jr. Thus, asking Delta to match up with my IDs.

So, make sure you ID names and ticketing names match. Otherwise, be prepared for hassle. Once I actually have the names matching up, I'm wondering if TSA will still be satisfied. Most all boarding passes I see have limited room for a middle name. We'll see, I guess.

Lastly, TSA seems to no longer require you to have your ID and boarding pass out when you walk through the metal detector. They seem to be fine with the first check at this point.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Finally Have An HF Radio

I've been a licensed amateur radio operator in the United States since 2000. I upgraded to the General class license last year with the intention of getting in to HF communication. The license requires studying and $12, but where the hobby really gets you is the equipment costs. Starting from nothing, you could spend as much as $1000 to get on the air with moderately recent radio equipment. So, getting a radio has taken a back seat to other things.

But all that changed the other day. I've been following eBay auctions for radios and finally found one I liked and was able to get it for $415. It's an Icom IC-706 (the original 706 model, not the Mk II and not the Mk IIg), which is maybe around 10 years old now, maybe less. However, it falls with the price point, age, size, and capabilities that I'm looking for.

The radio was offered on eBay by an amateur radio operator in Japan. He shipped it yesterday and I've been following it on the Japan Post English tracking site.

Aside from the radio and assuming the radio is actually functional, I have a number of other things that I need before I can actually get on the air. For example:
  • An antenna tuner. Looking at the LDG Z-11 Pro and Z-100Plus.
  • A DC power supply rated at least at 20 amps continuous. Astron makes one that fits this category and it also has cool meters on it.
  • An antenna to use the VHF part of the 706. While I have a perfectly usable HT that does VHF, I'd like to at least hook up the 706 for that because I may want to use it. The 706 only does 10 watts on VHF, which is twice what the HT does. The VHF/UHF rig in my car does 50/35.
  • An HF antenna. This is going to be the most complicated part because of where I live.
And then there's the fluff (none of this is critical, but would be fun to have):
  • West Mountain Radio RIGblaster for digital mode interfacing.
  • External speaker. I'm usually fine with the speakers in radios.
  • Headphones.
  • Fancy mic with DTMF keypad (buttons that beep).
  • SSB filters for the 706 (assuming it comes with none).
  • DSP filter for the 706 (also assuming it lacks this).
  • The whole setup mounted in a box for portable operation.
  • A generator (I can't run one here anyway).
  • West Mountain Radio RIGrunner on the assumption that I may get more than one radio at home.
That list can go on forever. The tuner and power supply are more or less picked out. Just need to buy them. The VHF antenna is pretty simple. I can use a magmount Diamond mobile or J-pole or something like that. The concern I have is with the HF antenna.

Enter my limited knowledge of HF antennas. First some basic theory. The speed of light equals frequency (in Hertz) times the wavelength (in meters). We usually talk about megahertz (1 million Hertz) or kilohertz (1 thousand Hertz), so keep that in mind for the formula.

Given one we can calculate the other. And very quickly you'll see that the two are inversely proportional. So the lower the frequency the higher the bandwidth. The HF bands are the lowest frequencies that amateur radio operators can use, the lowest being 1.8 MHz, which falls around 160 meters for the wavelength.

Why is any of this important? The wavelength is what you need to build effective antennas. Dipole antennas are good and ideal dipoles are one-half the wavelength. So an ideal dipole for 1.8 MHz would be 80 meters long (or just over 262 feet if you refuse to use metric). An antenna that large, even a quarter-length antenna is more or less impossible to have when you live in a condo.

Apartment and condo dwellers have come up with really interesting and unique antenna designs to operate on HF bands without the ability to set up large antennas. One of my favorites is making a dipole antenna using two metal Slinky toys. To have an antenna made from a Slinky would be cool. Click here for more information.

Another one that I like that's been recommended before is the TAK-tenna. I really like the design of the TAK-tenna and the fact that it would be outdoors. Also looks like it'd stand up to the environment here a bit better than others.

In the radio club I belong to, one of the members suggesting using the railing on the lanai as an antenna. Connect a tuner to it and tune it to whatever band and see how it works.

I think I'm going to have to use some creative variant on the dipole given the grounding limitations here. Any other antenna ideas? Again, I've been an operator for almost 10 years and am just now getting in to HF.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

To All Bicyclists In Honolulu

Dear Bicyclist,

You are a vehicle. You need to follow vehicle movement laws when on roads. Yeah, it's really neat that you're smaller than a car and can slip through a red light more or less unseen, but you are only putting yourself at risk. See this page for more information. I am specifically referring to these:
  • You have to obey traffic laws. Stop running red lights.
  • You can't ride on the sidewalks downtown or in Waikiki. Please stop.
  • Having a bicycle does NOT give you automatic right-of-way over cars. You are a vehicle and zipping right out of your driveway or whatever in front of an oncoming car that has to slam on the brakes and swerve to miss you is YOUR fault, not mine. I don't appreciate the middle finger either.
  • You have your own stupid lanes on the road. Use them.
I'm all for "Share The Road" and such, but how about you put forth some effort in that area as well?

Thank you,

A car driver who really doesn't want to hit a bicycle

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's stuck in there with glue or something, I don't know. [1]

I'm not antiquing, but trying to fix a chair that normally resides at our breakfast table. The chair had been mended in the past using tape (not by me). The adhesive on the tape eventually hardened and separated from the tape backing, and the chair split once again. I think someone put a nail in it after that, which seemed to work for a while. Oddly, the chair is still usable, despite the increasingly large split down this on leg. All I need to do is mend it again, right?

I could use screws, but the likelihood of splitting the wood more is pretty high, so scratch that idea. I decide to go with glue. Strong stuff.

I sniffed out facts on a lot of different glues trying to find one that would not remove my skin but would be strong enough to probably hold this chair together a bit longer. I decided to go with Gorilla Glue. These guys certainly have marketing down. It's location in the hardware store is perfect, the packaging and name give you the idea that it's strong (my knowledge of gorillas seems to indicate they are probably strong), and it's priced right. Gorilla Glue is also made in the USA, so I'm certain it only contains chemicals that the US has deemed safe for me in certain quantities.

So yes, I just wrote a blog entry about glue. I'm waiting for the gunk remover to work on the tape adhesive, so I had to do something.

I also used this chair project as an excuse to buy some more tools. Irwin makes micro Quick-Clamps, which are perfect for this job. I have larger Quick-Clamps (back in New Hampshire), so small ones make a nice addition to the tool collection. These look like calipers more than clamps.

[1] Futurama 2ACV17, "War Is The H-Word"

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bag of Updates

I have been in the process of moving my photos from my Flickr account over to my new SmugMug account. After looking at different photo sites and briefly considering setting up my own, I decided to go with SmugMug. So far I have been very pleased with their service. It's not cheap, but I was looking for a lot of features and frankly, SmugMug was the only one that could deliver.

I have not moved all of my photos from Flickr over to SmugMug. I am also taking the opportunity to reorganize my photos locally and remove ones that should have been removed a long time ago. As I reorganize the collection locally and republish (or not) to SmugMug, I'm removing the album from Flickr. I'm down to 1200 or so photos at last count on Flickr and I was at around 6000.

Not sure what to do with my Flickr account other than let it expire. I think cell phone type photos that I take will end up on Facebook rather than Flickr.

Karen is going to the mainland soon for a week for Sarah's & Ryan's wedding, but I cannot go. After the wedding, she's heading over to New York to see her mom and friends from home, then will make the trip back to Hawaii with her mom. There's a stop over in Las Vegas and I plan on meeting them there for the weekend.

The work on our building is still going on and at the rate they are working, I don't expect it to be finished on time. But I don't really care about that. What's bizarre to me is that the work crew blasts old Elton John and Billy Joel music early in the morning and sings along to it. The crew also takes their lunch break and just sleeps in the parking lot. I leave to go get lunch and there's 8 guys just lying on the ground. It looks like a scene from The Stand or something like that.

We've already booked visitors for February 2010, so if you are wanting to visit us and crash at our place, book early! We are popular.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why Do People Keep Buying It

I was talking to a neighbour in the building the other day about various things. We have construction work happening on the building, so we discussed that. We also talked about the person parking at the building who doesn't live there (resulted in a very painful morning for me because he left a note in the wind shield saying he was visiting unit #603, which is our condo, but I have no idea who this guy is).

As we talk, he walks over to check his mailbox. The latest issue of some Mac magazine was in there, so he started talking about computers. He knows that I write software (or bugs, depending on how you look at it), but I quickly made it clear that I don't do tech support. I can't help you with your printer problems, why "The Internet" won't work on your computer, or help with your wireless router. For that, you need to be on a very short list of names of people I will help.

Fortunately he didn't have any questions. But he wanted to tell me his story about why he switched to Mac. OK, cool, I can listen to that while I wait for my delivery to show up. He went on and on about how Windows kept getting progressively worse and finally he just bought a Mac and it's been great. That sounds like a solution to me. I hear a lot of people complain about Windows over and over and I just wonder why they put up with it. Or, if you are going to put up with it, why do you keep buying new versions if you are continually disappointed?

After Windows he went on and on about Microsoft Office and how much he hates it. After a while of this, I said, "if you hate it so much, you should give OpenOffice a try." He'd never heard of it (no surprise), but he did say he went out and bought iWork so he could use that instead. Again with the solutions. More average computer users should be like this guy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Moving Photos to SmugMug

After searching for alternatives to Flickr, I've finally chosen SmugMug. I'm also using this as an opportunity to clean up my disorganized photo collection locally before publishing to SmugMug. As I move things around locally and publish to SmugMug, I am removing the same content from Flickr. I've already paid for Flickr through spring of next year, but I do not plan on using it anymore. Photos I take from my phone or things like that, I will most likely upload to Facebook rather than creating a gallery on SmugMug.

New photo site: http://photos.burdell.org/

I don't have any bio content up there or really anything beyond the default layout. It'll take me a while to get everything set up there since this is a hobby.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Latest F-11 Rhythmbox Troubles

This could be user error, but so far no one has been able to explain to me this change. rhythmbox-0.12.1 in Fedora 11 was the last version to come with the GNOME panel applet icon. It offers a context menu to play or pause and to skip tracks. This made the program far more usable to me because I could control it from the applet panel. But now, as of 0.12.3, this feature is gone. Can I turn it on again? I can't seem to figure out how. I don't want to use rhythmbox fullscreen either.

The second problem with 0.12.3 on my system is the volume control. If I skip tracks, the volume control is reduced to almost silence. I have to open the volume control and jack up the volume to hear things again. But, if I let rhythmbox play tracks as is, the volume remains the same. Anyone else experiencing this problem in F-11?

I've dropped back to rhythmbox-0.12.1 for now.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My New Hammer

I have a tool bag with my most used tools that don't have their own box (e.g., socket set). I went with the tool bag mostly because it's easier to transport than a toolbox, doesn't weigh as much as a toolbox, and gets rid of the idea of organization, which really never works in a toolbox anyway.

One problem with the tool bag that I have is that it can't hold a hammer. A hammer is something I deem useful for a variety of purposes and I've never had a hammer that can just fit in the tool bag. My friend Elliott never even had a hammer, always borrowing mine because I had a toolbox at the time and he has toolbags (so I could carry a hammer, among other things).

I like the tool bag though and if a hammer won't fit in it, that's ok. I am usually doing things that require screwdrivers, wire cutters, pliers, nutdrivers, Torx drivers, and occassionally the use of a wrench. You know, voiding warranties. But sometimes I need a hammer.

I finally found one that can fit in the tool bag. At City Mill, I saw a mini hammer. I had actually seen it before, but finally picked it up the other day. Here's a picture:



Yes, physics 101 will tell you that a short handle hammer is stupid. However, for hanging pictures and finishing the job of voiding warranties, the shortie hammer works fine.

Is Pepsi Throwback Back?

Back in the spring of this year, Pepsi announced a release of some special products for a limited time. Adding 'Throwback' to the name of Pepsi and Mountain Dew and maybe others, they released versions of their soft drinks made with real sugar instead of HFCS. Like they do in Europe and like they used to do in the US.

David told me about it and said he saw a 12 pack of it at a store near him, so he picked it up. That was back in April or May. Pepsi Throwback never made it to Hawaii. Karen and I saw it in Boston when we were there in April. It was in a little shop at South Station. We bought two bottles before boarding Greyhound for NYC. It definitely tasted like Europepsi to me.

Last night Karen and I are headed back from her office/dinner and I decide to stop at the Aloha Petroleum on Kalakaua Ave. We wanted to grab some sodas and see a movie. In the drink cooler they have 20 oz bottles of Pepsi Throwback. Odd. Have not seen it at all in Hawaii. They had 7 bottles, so I bought them all. I don't expect to see it again in Hawaii. If you do happen to see it somewhere on the island, let me know.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Building Repair Work

Today was the first day of exterior repair work that is happening on our condo building. They are repairing spalling all over the building including the lanai on every unit. After that repair work, they are repainting the entire building. Probably just a fresh coat of beach front beige.

I like preventative maintenance as well as overall upkeep of things, but the execution by the management company for this repair work has been less than stellar. They sent out notices over 6 months ago telling us that we needed to clear off our lanai so that they could be inspected for spalling damage. OK, done. Skip to today and we have a construction crew installing scaffolding and window washer lifts. No notice was ever sent out telling us when it would begin, but we knew that our lanai would have to be cleaned off. Also, since my parking stall is on the top level, I have to move my car when they work on that side of the building.

So, nothing was ever sent out. I called our landlord who was also unaware of any work going on. We cleaned off our lanai (more or less) and I have been monitoring for when I need to move my car. This evening a notice was taped up in the elevator telling everyone that failure to clear off your lanai will delay the repair work at your cost. What? Tell us the day after it starts that we have to clear everything off the lanai. They will be getting a phone call tomorrow.

Fortunately, today was just set up day. It was noisy as they assembled the window washer lift system and ran cables. I hope it doesn't end up like this one:

Monday, July 20, 2009

SCUBA Diving

Living in Hawaii brings a lot of our friends and family by. We represent slightly less expensive accomodations for people who want to visit. That's cool because we enjoy visitors.

Everyone comes here and wants to do the things they hear about in Hawaii. I usually play tour guide and drive people around the island and take them to the different big name spots. The beach is easy to figure out on your own. For surfing, you're on your own for that. Surfing doesn't really appeal to me.

The other popular activities that our visitors want to do include snorkeling and SCUBA diving. We've had a number of SCUBA visitors. Karen usually goes with them because she is SCUBA certified. I am not and that has involved conversations with many people who assume that I am not certified because I am afraid of diving. The problem is that I cannot get a medical certificate from my doctor to allow me to complete the SCUBA training.

See, I have seizure disorder (which is also called epilepsy). I am on daily medication and regularly see a neurologist who occasionally performs tests to collect new data about my brain and see if the medication is actually working. The good news is that the medication has been working since I went on it. The bad news is that my doctor wants me to be on it for 5 years without a seizure before he will consider taking me off the medication. And if/when that happens, you still need to be seizure for an additional 5 years while off medication before they will consider letting you SCUBA.

So that's the reason. Please don't explain how great SCUBA is to me and what all I am missing. If I had the opportunity, I would do it. Until then, I get to do other things, such as snorkeling.

Don't always assume people aren't diving because they are afraid. Sometimes it's out of their hands.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Things With The Family and Laptop Troubles

My family is still here (they depart on Monday). We took them around the island over the weekend. I took Wednesday off and went snorkeling with them. Karen spent Thursday with them. We took them to a luau last night. I think they are having a good time. I wish that Karen and I could have the time off while they are here, but it just doesn't work that way. Maybe if we lived in Europe where you get the legally mandated 50 weeks of vacation per year we could do that. But we live in the US where we get the legally mandated 50 seconds of vacation.

Today they are headed to the Polynesian Cultural Center. I plan on meeting them tonight and will either see Horizons (the big show they do at night at the PCC) with them or not. Either way, I'm providing transporation back to the other side of the island.

Work is going well. I do not feel like I am drowning in bug reports like I normally am. I am working on finishing up script mode support for dhcp6c, the DHCPv6 client software I own. That will allow NetworkManager to expand its IPv6 support. I released a new pyparted this week which requires the parted-1.9.0 snapshot that is in Fedora rawhide at the moment. We gain a really important feature with this release, which is the ability to disable aligning partitions to cylinder boundaries.

My non-work laptop has recently stopped charging its battery. Works fine off AC, but it juts won't charge the battery. Apparently this is a known problem in the Dell Mini 9. So known, in fact, that Ubuntu has a pile of Python called aircraft-manager that fiddles the right ports with outb() in order to enable AC charging again. Aircraft-manager seems to be GPL licensed code, but I cannot find ANY UPSTREAM SOURCE for it. I found a deb file of it, ran it through 'ar x', and then unpacked data.tar.gz to find the code. Ubuntu, where's the upstream for this? I suppose it doesn't really matter, because the ioperm(), inb(), outb() magic didn't fix it on my system.

Searching around a bit more, I find that there is a BIOS update to fix the problem. I download the update only to discover it's a DOS executable. The only external media I can boot on this system without buying more hardware is a USB jumpdrive. I asked a friend to make me a 2GB USB bootable DOS image that I could use. He did and I downloaded it, put the BIOS update on it, and booted it on the Mini 9. It worked great. I ran the BIOS update program and it alerted me that my battery was not charged and exited. I removed the battery and ran the program again and it told me the battery was missing and could I please reinsert it, then exited. Argh!

So now I need to figure out how to fix the battery charging issue in order to update the BIOS in order to fix the battery charging issue. I looked for anything useful on the Dell recovery DVD that came with the system. It was a bunch of random files and no README or anything useful. There is a 1.3GB file called belmont-travel-stable-install-usb-20090108-1.img, which I am going to attempt to write to a jumpdrive and boot. Maybe I can restore it to factory settings and run aircraft-manager on Ubuntu and fix this problem. Ugh, what nonsense.

Some comments for Ubuntu and Dell:

Ubuntu: Where is the upstream for aircraft-manager? Could you please release that somewhere other than in .deb format if it's GPL software?

Dell: Providing a recovery DVD for a laptop that lacks a DVD drive is annoying, but I would be ok with that if you provided a README file describing the files on the DVD. Also, providing a Windows executable to create bootable USB media for a system that shipped with Linux only is pretty stupid. I don't need a Linux utility, I have dd. I just need a README file describing the contents of the disc.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Things

It's the fourth of July as I write this. The other day I posted a status update on Facebook about Canada Day, except I posted it on the 2nd. Thinking the lateness comments on my status update were jabs at my timezone, I reiterated that point in a comment of my own. To which I was informed that Canada Day is on the 1st, not the 2nd. So where did I get my information? From the calendar(1) command I added to Fedora. I pulled it from OpenBSD (made in Canada!) and got it packaged up for Fedora. However, it has an off-by-one bug that I apparently discovered when it informed me that Canada Day was on the 2nd. I find it ironic that I saw the off by one bug while asking a program pulled from a Canada-based source tree about when Canada Day was. Now to patch.

Karen and I have been cleaning the condo in preparation for my family visiting. They arrive next week.

Karen's laptop stopped working the other day. Appears to be the AC circuitry, which is somewhat important to the laptop working. She's thinking about ordering a Dell Mini 10, so she's using my Mini 9 to see if she likes the small form factor. Unlike the 9, the 10 comes with either a real hard disk or an SSD. We will probably get her the real hard disk option so it's large enough for all of her data. And she will also be moving to Fedora with this new system.

Speaking of Fedora, the rawhide tree is quite raw at the moment. I expect this, but while upgrading my development systems, all sorts of things stopped working. SELinux started denying many things from working, Firefox never worked until it was updated to version 3.5. Sound completely stopped working giving me libao errors or other cryptic audio stack errors that I've never seen before. One of the 2.6.31 kernels crashed on boot, but I was able to boot the previous one just fine. Sound is back to working now, but as I skip through songs in Rhythmbox, the audio level decreases one level with each skip until it mutes entirely. Annoying. The strangest problem happened to me yesterday. Programs started crashing left and right and the system failed to reboot using any of the kernels I had. I booted up the Fedora 11 installer in rescue mode and when I tried to chroot in to /mnt/sysimage, nothing worked. Reverting /lib64/ld-2.10.90.so to /lib64/ld-2.10.1.so from Fedora 11 fixed things. Word of caution: watch out for the latest glibc in rawhide. Hope it gets fixed soon.

Well, back to cleaning for now.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

ARRL Field Day

Today is the annual ARRL Field Day event. The club I am a member of in Honolulu (the Emergency Amateur Radio Club) will be operating two stations from the North Shore today. I do not know if the club will be using a single callsign or if we will be using the callsigns of control operators. Likely the latter, check the site to see who is signed up. If you are wanting to make a Hawaii HF contact, listen for callsigns that begin with KH6, KH7, WH6, or WH7. Or listen for me with a New England call: KB1PCX.

The weather is more or less cooperating right now. Getting ready to head to the other side of the island for the event.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Heading Home

Our trip over the northeastern United States is done. Chris and Sarah are married, I got some office time in, we met with friends in and around Boston, and we got to see [Karen's] Chris and Ryoko in Manhattan, along with some of Karen's friends. All in all a great trip.

I think I posted about the wedding already. Work was more or less work. We hung out at various places in Boston. We took the bus to Manhattan Thursday evening and were there until we left this morning. Saw Up (again) and The Hangover (funny), ate at some good restaurants, went to Strand Bookstore, and I finally got to go to the B&H Superstore. B&H really is crazy, check out this video:



I kept thinking the smoke monster from LOST was following us, but no, it was just the taxi receipt printers (check out lostpedia.com, that's the sound they use for the smoke monster).

I learned what the nitrogen cylinders are for that you see every so often on sidewalks. The telco and ConEd use them to keep lines dry. Are they safe? Apparently they can be hit by a car and not go boom. Nice.

I also was determined to learn what the different subway indicators mean. I see numbers, letters, shapes, and colors. Turns out shapes and colors are mostly pointless to the average user.

Right now I am over New Mexico on a Delta flight enjoying inflight wifi. Almost halfway home. More posts later.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Departure in Five Short Hours

Karen and I are headed to BOS this evening. This coming weekend is the wedding of my good friend Chris. We're arriving a bit early since I'm in the wedding. It'll be nice to be back in New England, if only for a short time.

Next week I'll be putting in hours at the Red Hat office. Towards the end of the week, Karen and I will be headed down to Manhattan to visit her brother and his girlfriend. I wanted to take the Acela down to Manhattan so this would officially be a planes, trains, and automobiles trip, but the Acela is just too expensive considering we also have a week of car rental and roundtrip airfare from HNL.

We head back home after that, hopefully not too exhausted.

Over the weekend, we picked up things that we needed for the trip and verified travel plans and such. While out and about, we stopped at a Sprint store because I wanted to see the new Palm Pre phone. I have to say it's a lot nicer than I thought it would be. The size is nice and I like the keyboard (it's actually usable, for me at least). I get my iPhone contract shackles removed in January, at which point I either keep the POS iPhone or go for something new. Perhaps by then Sprint will be on revision 2 of the Palm Pre and it'll be even nicer. The price right now looks good and the features are nice to me. Then again, I'm easily impressed. I bought the original model iPhone, after all.

I'm not leaving BellSouth Mobility SBC Wireless Ameritech Pacific Bell Wireless Cingular AT&T Wireless AT&T Death Star unless someone else pays the $175 early contract termination fee. I'll just wait.

What are the odds of my contract running to completion before Sprint is acquired? Perhaps by Death Star.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Moved to github

I've moved my non-work/non-Fedora projects over to github.com. I originally hosted my own source control. I started many many years ago with CVS, then Subversion, then Mercurial for whatever reason, and finally I decided I didn't want to be my own system administrator anymore, so I shut down my server after 10 years of availability. With that came the need to find a home for email (gmail), web hosting (site5), and version control. At the recommendation of Logan, I decided to give code.google.com a try. Like the web interface, hate the use of subversion.

So now I'm using git for everything: work projects and non-work projects. As such, I've moved the following projects to github:
I have not moved my osxpkgs project from code.google.com because I really just don't care about it anymore. If anyone out there wants to take over ownership of that project, let me know and I'll give it to you. osxpkgs still lives here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Please Use The Correct Term

It has always bothered me when people say they are stuck on the tarmac when they really mean they are stuck on the ramp or the taxiway. Please use the correct term.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Back from Las Vegas

Got back yesterday from Chris' bachelor party trip to Las Vegas. We didn't plan much beyond drinking, hanging out, and gambling. We successfully helped Chris consume an admirable quantity of alcohol and we assisted in the recovery of said experiment.

David Shea and were up all night on Saturday (well, technically, we got back at 5 AM). We went over to The Bellagio and Caesar's Palace, but they were mostly full of drunk people teetering and trying to find their rooms and/or something to do.

We did get to visit In-N-Out Burger, which I'm sure Chris hadn't had in a while. I gave him a preferred customer token that I still had, but the guy at the register had never seen one before. Still got a free burger though.

The last time I was in Vegas, I did pretty well on video poker. That surprised me because in video poker, it's not possible to bluff. This time was opposite, I didn't really do well at all. However, I did better at craps this time.

Craps is an interesting game because at glance it looks like one of the most difficult games in the casino. The tables are crowded, lively, and lots of chips flying around. At least, that's how I always thought of it. But it's really super simple. Search the interweb for any number of guides for craps and you'll see how easy it is.

In all, I think everyone had a good time. I hope Chris did. We could have planned a whole lot of things to do, but I think it was really fun for everyone to just hang out and drink.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Slow Down Bugzilla

I would like to disable the Fedora and RHEL Bugzilla for one or two days a week, just to slow things down a bit. When I start work on Mondays, I have hundreds of BZ mails to sort through. By the end of the week, I might have a handle on things (usually not) and then the cycle repeats. This is on top of the MASSIVE amount of fedora-*-list email that comes in.

I'd like Bugzilla to close for Mondays and Fridays. Leave it open on weekends since a lot of people will test things on weekends and want to report bugs.

I don't think this is unreasonable. Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sundays. B&H Photo Video is closed on Saturdays. Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays. Why not our Bugzilla?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

We're #1!

In July, the Hawaii general excise tax break on fuels with 10% ethanol will expire. Combined with the rise of fuel prices this summer anyway, we could see 15 cent or higher per gallon tax increases.

With the general excise tax credit expiring, it means Hawaii will then have the highest per gallon gas tax in the nation. We're currently at 52 cents per gallon in taxes on average and in the #2 position for the highest (California beats us). With the general excise credit expiring, we'll beat out California for the #1 spot. Go Hawaii!

The lowest in the nation is still Alaska and will probably be forever. 18 cents per gallon.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Air Conditioning (cont.)

Karen and I have decided to buy an air conditioner. I don't want to because it's not a fun toy like a new camera gadget, video game system, or LEGO set. Also, it's expensive. However, Hawaii is hot and will be getting hotter for us since we lose exterior windows in July and August (see previous post).

When I have to buy something that I don't want to, I delay the purchase by reading about it. Trying to learn something about before I go in and make the purchase. Air conditioning is no exception.

Air conditioners come in all shapes and sizes. Growing up in metro Atlanta, Georgia, I was used to central air conditioning. Air conditioning was an absolute must in that region of the country and when it broke down, it sucked. Central air conditioners measure their cooling capacity in tons. At one point in time, I assumed all air conditioners were measured this way. It wasn't until college that I learned room air conditioners are measured in BTUs. But wait, isn't that British thermal unit? Yes, it is. And I can make the drive to Home Depot in less than 12 parsecs.

First, you have to be able to understand air conditioning measurements. Tons vs. BTUs is pretty simple. One ton of air conditioning capacity is equal to 12,000 BTUs of air conditioning. And one BTU is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Wait, what?

The take away from above is that BTUs are the core unit for air conditioning capacity. More BTUs means more capacity for cooling. Simple. Now, how do you determine how many BTUs (or tons) you need? The answer is you make a wild ass guess using random bullshit factors and some arithmetic.

The HVAC industry has divided the country up in to zones. These zones take in to consideration year round climate, high and low temperatures, and humidity levels. The zones are assigned bullshit factors which you use to multiply the number of square feet you want to cool by to arrive at a BTU value. Hawaii isn't given a zone because all of the zone maps I found are for the continental United States. So I picked Florida's zone. That means I use a bullshit multiply factor of 40 (according to the zone map I found).

We primarily want to cool two rooms in the condo, but not at the same time. The largest room is 150 square feet. 150 times 40 is 6,000 BTUs. The average window mounted air conditioner is 10,000 BTU, so figure these things are pretty inefficient and suffer a lot of loss in the cooling process.

But what about heat loss and ventilation where you want to cool and the building insulation and whether or not you have a glass wall that the sun beats down on for most of the day or if you high ceilings or hardwood floors or carpet? Yeah, I dunno. It's a bullshit figure to help you pick out an air conditioner.

Armed with the number 6,000, I plan to head to Home Depot later to get something near that cooling capacity. Pictures of the set up to be posted later.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

License Plates

Or number plates, depending on where you live. Many of my friends know I spot license plates on vehicles very quickly. The other day we're driving down Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki and in the middle of conversation I say, "Vermont" and point to the vehicle in front of us. Jeep Wrangler with Vermont plates in Hawaii. I've seen more out of state and out of country plates in Hawaii than anywhere else.

I have my original Georgia plate from when I bought my Jetta (complete with the Fulton county sticker covering up the Cobb county sticker, ITP residents will be able to understand) as well as my New Hampshire plates from when I moved up there. I never had the vehicle registered in Massachusetts, so I have no Massachusetts plates. I do have a California plate from my neighbor back in Nashua (not stolen, they registered the car in NH and offered me a CA plate since I had my GA one displayed).

There is a restaurant out in Hawaii Kai called The Shack, which is a neat burger place on the harbor. Outdoor seating, nice bar, boat access. They have license plates decorating the walls, which is not uncommon for places like this. Some plate designs are uber lame (e.g., Massachusetts, California, or the post-1991 Hawaii plate) and some are really nice looking (e.g., Arizona, Idaho, New Hampshire).

I'm not alone in my interest in license plates. It's sort of like stamp collecting or coin collecting, I guess. So, why not get official samples from the different state governments? Not all states do, but whatever.

I'm looking for information on collecting North American-sized license plates. For example, I found that the state of Alaska will send you either the standard current plate design or the gold rush plate design for $3. I'm also interested in license plates from Canada, Mexico, and the various island territories and nations surrounding North America.

Will I collect any of these? We'll see. I might send Alaska $3 and ask for a plate. Then only 47 states to go (have NH and GA, remember). If you're ever looking for a good gift idea for me, a license plate is always welcomed. If you have any information about Canadian or Mexican license plates, let me know.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Need An Air Conditioner

Karen and I were recently informed of some construction work that will be happening this summer in our building. They are repainting the entire exterior of the building as well as spalling repair work. During the construction, all windows and lanai doors have to remain closed.

This presents a few problems. First, the building has no central HVAC system, nor are there provisions for one. We do not have a window unit air conditioner (though some units do), but we can't get one of those either because we don't have a window you can mount one in. We have floor to ceiling jalousie windows, which are not suitable for mounting window units.

I have to keep all of the windows and lanai doors open all day for there to be any sort of breeze, otherwise this place turns in to an oven. It doesn't cool down much at night either. However, it's not uncomfortable. It's noticeably warmer than other parts of the country, but you can sit around in this weather. If you close all of the windows, it really gets hot and stuffy fast. Therefore, air conditioner.

We are considering a portable air conditioner because it's just going to get too hot otherwise. Haier (makers of small sized appliances) makes a 7000 BTU portable air conditioner that's around $300 depending on where you buy it. This is sort of the price point I'm comfortable with.

Anyone have any other suggestions?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

ThinkPad X301

Work updated my laptop to a Lenovo ThinkPad X301 to replace my dated T42. Last year I had also purchased a MacBook system and very quickly started using both the T42 and MacBook for development work. Because of the T42's age, the MacBook was more useful (it being virt-capable, for instance). The X301 has replaced the T42 for me and is far more useful.

Over the past few weeks, I've slowly been moving work projects from the MacBook over to the X301. I completed the final move today and am now MacBook-free. That coincides with selling the MacBook too. Nothing like selling the MacBook to get you to finish up moving data to the X301.

So, specs? My knowledge of current processors and what's better or worse is long since useless. I remember that you wanted a 486 'DX' processor instead of an 'SX' processor, for instance. The Pentium 60Mhz (which I owned) was also slower than a 486 DX/4 at 100Mhz. And using anything from Cyrix was a waste of time (I owned a 6x86 133+ processor, which ran at a clock speed of 110Mhz and required the oddball 55Mhz bus speed or something like that). The last time I made an effort to stay up to date on processors was with my Pentium Pro system. I had a dual Pentium Pro 200Mhz system. Each CPU ran at 200Mhz, had 1MB of L2 cache, and got really really hot. I had an Intel PR440FX mainboard with onboard AIC-7880 SCSI. That was neat....10 years ago. OK, so skip to now. I don't know processor names, low end or high end speeds, or really anything else about them. But I do know what the X301 has:
  • Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU U9400 @ 1.40GHz
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB SSD storage
  • DVD RW drive
  • USB, BlueTooth, wifi, Ethernetfi, fingerprint reader (great?)
At least one of my friends will ask what graphics adapter it has. According to lspci, it's: 00:02.1 Display controller: Intel Corporation Mobile 4 Series Chipset Integrated Graphics Controller (rev 07). Personally, I really don't care about the graphics adapter so long as I can see firefox, my email client, terminal windows, and vim.

The X301 is amazingly quiet, light, and speedy. I like it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Engaged!

Karen and I are engaged, as of April 18th, 2009. I had huge elaborate plans to propose to Karen, which involved planning a secret trip under the disguise of a business trip to Boston and then proposing there and having a party with all of our Boston friends. The main problem associated with that trip was timing and money, because Karen and I already travel quite a bit. So then I thought about a weekend trip to Maui on the Superferry and proposing either on the Superferry or somewhere on Maui. I went to book tickets for the trip and it happened to be the same exact day that the Superferry was shut down by the Hawaii supreme court. Taking that as a sign to not involve travel around the proposal, I got up at 4:00 AM one Saturday and made breakfast and went and got flowers and surprised Karen that way. She loved it.


We celebrated at Rum Fire (in fact, the photo above is from Rum Fire, and I think I had had a few drinks by the time the camera came out) that night with Karen's mom and friends and then had fun calling and telling our friends and family. Facebook was alerted a few days later.

Karen and I met in Boston in July of 2006. She was living in Medford, Massachusetts and I was living in Nashua, New Hampshire. We met via eHarmony. Our first date was at Bertucci's in the Alewife T Station. What's sort of funny now is that we originally had planned a date a little earlier than the one we actually had. I was getting ready to leave work (the Westford Red Hat office) and we [the anaconda team] were working late on trying to make split media installs work (well, I wasn't doing much of anything if I recall correctly). At the mandate of Jeremy Katz (that's right, I'm calling you out by name), he indicated that my leaving early would suck. Not really knowing what else to do, I walked out behind the building and called Karen to cancel. She told me later that she didn't expect to hear from me after that, that perhaps I had met someone else and was getting out of this date.

What REALLY sucked is that after that split media crap, my parents came up to visit for a week. So I was postponing even more. So many things were working against me for Karen and I to meet up. However, I did call her and we did make arrangements for another date and it actually worked this time. I arrived a bit early and was sitting at the bar in a Hawaiian shirt. Little did I know we'd be living in Hawaii years later. We hit it off immediately and everyone knows the rest.

We have been getting a lot of questions about when the wedding will be and where the wedding will be. And then about a thousand other questions. Things I'd like our friends and family to know as Karen and I plan things:
  • We have been invited to four weddings for 2009.
  • We have other travels slated for 2009 (holidays, etc).
  • We live in Hawaii, so no trip is minor.
  • We have chosen the Boston, Massachusetts area for the wedding because it's where we met and that location means something to both of us.
  • The wedding will not occur in 2009 (see first point).
And that's all we have planned so far. Really. Seriously. Since I am nerdly, I will probably set up a wedding web site as we get more things put together.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Back From New Hampshire

Karen and I finally made it back home from Greg & Mekayla's wedding. The trip was a lot of fun and we got to see a lot of our Boston friends. It was short, mostly because we have more trips later in the year and budgeting comes in to play. It costs a lot to fly from the center of the Pacific Ocean to Boston.

The AMC Highland Center was a great location for their wedding. The last time I was there was when Chris and I hiked Avalon, Field, and Tom.

They asked me to be one of the official photographers for the wedding. Official is too official of a word. They didn't hire a professional photographer, but asked me to coordinate the efforts of 6 of us who had been asked to specifically take photos throughout the wedding. I took 927 photos over three days. All combined, there was over 6000 photos (and that's from everyone who had a camera too, not just the official photographers).

I learned a good bit over the three days. Lighting is a bitch. Photographing a campfire is hard. More people than I thought do not like to have their picture taken. Vaulted ceilings and fluorescent lighting makes lighting the shot challenging.

I am currently going through the photos I took and trimming it down to what I deem the good photos. Once I have those, I'll upload to Flickr.

Earned just over 10000 miles for this trip.

Beers #13, #14, and #15

I'm really behind on the beer challenge. I have a backlog of days now. The trip to New Hampshire messed me up, so now I have to get drunk this weekend and catch up. I was able to try three new beers on the trip and make some forward progress:

Beer #13: Wolaver's Brown Ale

Certified organic and certified tasty. Recommended. Good flavor, aroma, and color. All around enjoyable beer.

Beer #14: Mayflower Brewing Pale Ale

As far as pale ales go, this one isn't terribly exciting. If you like pale ale, you might like this one. Some say it's a bit on the hoppy side. I didn't notice or I didn't mind, not quite sure. Probably not one I would seek out, but definitely not horrible. If you like pale ale, try this one.

Beer #15: Woodchuck Draft Cider

Does cider count as a beer? I'm including it in the beer challenge, mostly because I'd never had it and I wanted to try it. Adult apple juice. It's pretty good.

OK, I'm now on day 20 and I am only at 15 beers. That means I'm only trying 0.75 new beers a day currently. Need to step that up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beers #10, #11, #12 and misc

Beer #10: Ayinger Brau-Weisse

Authentic Bavarian Hefe-weizen. It's good. I recommend it.

Beer #11: Achel Trappist

I've had better. Not bad, but not great.

Beer #12: Eku Pils

Not bad for a pilsner. It's German. Give it a try.

Also, Karen and I are now engaged.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Beer #9: Butte Creek Organic India Pale Ale

Here's one you can skip if you haven't tried it. The reviews on BeerAdvocate generally seem to be in favor of this beer, but I have to say that it sort of sucks. Entirely too overboard on the hops. Now, I like an IPA just like the next guy, but as also stated by Chris, I don't want to taste a glass full of lawn clippings.

Craziness of the hops aside, the beer looks good when poured and smells nice. The taste makes you jump out of your chair. If that's your thing, this might be a beer for you.

As for the organic aspect, I don't really know how to test that out since I can't get a non-organic Butte Creek IPA.

I've completed a week or so on this course of trying 100 beers in the next 100 days. Let's see what I've done so far:

Countries:
  • United States: 2
  • Germany: 1
  • Denmark: 1
  • Japan: 2
  • Belgium: 2
  • Australia: 1
Styles:
  • IPA: 1
  • Hefeweizen: 1
  • Belgian triple: 1
  • Belgian other: 1
  • Japan boringness: 2
  • Australian interestingness: 1
  • Denmark whatever: 1
  • German ordinary: 1
This is not a scientific project.

Beer #8: Gulden Draak

A Belgian triple. Alcohol content of 10.5%, comes in a distinctive 330mL bottle. For more information, click here.

This isn't my favorite of Belgian beers. I do like the triple style, but this one tasted significantly stronger than most, which may have something to do with the various berries and whatnot that goes in to the beer (read the article on Wikipedia).

I would like to try it again and with proper glassware. I've generally liked most Belgian beers I've tried, but this one I think needs another go.

I will say that I tolerated it, but I'm not quite at the point of recommending it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tax Season Over

In the United States, personal income tax is collected at a variety of levels. Some cities collect a personal income tax, such as the City of New York and the City of Yonkers (which they call an income tax surcharge, which still sounds like tax to me), both in New York state. Many municipalities have wage taxes or occupational taxes, which are usually the source of many local arguments and debates and councilmembers being voted out of office.

But no one ever really talks about municipal government income tax. All you ever really hear about is state income tax and federal income tax. You also hear the date April 15 a lot, which is the date that personal income tax to the federal government is due. Most states make their due dates on this day as well.

This week has been tax week and there have been subtle clues all over that you need to remember to file your tax return by April 15th. One of my favorite so far has been AMC running The Untouchables several times a day this week. Remember how they got Capone on income tax evasion? Oh right, better go do my taxes.

Here in Hawaii, I have the pleasure of paying 8.25% of my income to the state government and a significantly larger portion to the federal government.

I hope everyone filed on time.

Dinner at Ka 'Ikena

On Wednesday night, Karen and I met with some of her coworkers and their friends for dinner at the Ka 'Ikena Restaurant at Kapi'olani Community College. This restaurant is a teaching/classroom facility for people taking culinary and hospitality courses. The restaurant manager is the instructor for the dining room students. The kitchen operates as a separate class (at least based on what I was told).

It was really interesting and strange. Should we all be playing various roles, such as aggravated customer, difficult customer, customer who doesn't speak English, and so on?

The restaurant serves a full 5 course meal, but the only beverages offered are water or tea. It's bring your own booze, so everyone showed up with bottles of wine and beer. Guess the school can't have a liquor license?

Elsewhere in the same building were various kitchens and lab environments. For example, we entered the building and walked past the Confectionery Lab. Neat.

In another building is a mock hotel room. So weird. I guess people in the hospitality industry have to learn somewhere and you might as well have actual settings like the ones you'll be working in.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beer #7: Coopers Sparkling Ale

Real Aussie Ale. Brewed In Australia. No additives. No preservatives. Australian made. Australian owned. Bottle fermented. Family brewed.

These phrases are all printed on the bottle, along with a silhouette of a kangaroo. On the back of the label it reads:
Coopers Ales and Stout are brewed using the centuries old top fermentation method and natural bottle fermentation method and natural bottle conditioning, resulting in a characteristic fine sediment forming on the base of the bottle. This sediment is completely natural and can be gently mixed before drinking or poured carefully leaving the sediment in the bottle.
Never before has a bottle told me so much. They really like their beer and want you to appreciate it to the same degree. This beer was really quite good. I decided to give the bottle a swirl to mix the sediment in and pour that in to my glass as well, so I could get what I imagine is the full effect of Coopers Sparkling Ale. Very nice beer. If you can find a bottle, give it a try.

Coopers is brewed in Australia and imported by some importer in California. I'm not sure what the shelf life is, but I doubt it's long. The beer itself very much reminds me of a homebrew. It's just good.

12.7 fluid ounces should be enough for you to decide if you like it as well. I'm glad I'm starting down the path of beers I like. The ones early in the project were just not exciting.

Beer #6: Bavik

I'm not doing a very good job of posting on the day I drink the new beer. Whatever though, I still post.

Beer #6 was Bavik, a Belgian Pilsner. I enjoyed this beer. It's light colored but cloudy, flavorful but not overwhelming, and distinctively Belgian (and I'm comparing to other Belgian beers I like).

It came in a 330mL bottle, which wasn't quite a pint. I was wanting another when I finished it. The previous beers I've tried in this 100 beers in 100 days project were not good enough to have me asking for another (except for the Widmer one).

I can recommend Bavik. Belgian beer is known to be strong and this one seems stronger than your average pilsner, but certainly not strong like typical Belgian beer.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Offer Valid At Participating Locations

You know the phrase. Offer valid at participating locations. Or something along those lines. I'd never run in to a non-participating location until moving to Hawaii. Here, they never participate in nationwide promotions. Sign seen today at the register at KFC Hawaii on Kapahulu Ave:



This is about the norm. Stores have to put up signs like this when a nationwide coupon mailer goes out and everyone in Hawaii ends up with the coupons that aren't valid here.

Perhaps the bigger question here is why was I eating at KFC?

Beer #5: Carlsberg

From Copenhagen, Denmark comes Carlsberg. Karen had tried this one before and didn't have many great things to say about it. I have to agree.

BeerAdvocate.com rates it as a C, or mediocre. And it's certainly worthy of that rating. They state it's a German pilsner style, but it doesn't quite taste right. No head, some aroma, some hops, mostly alcohol flavor. Maybe that's what you want.

This is another beer brewed in another country and then imported here, unlike fake import beers that are brewed "under authority" from the foreign brewery but by a local brewery.

I do not recommend Carlsberg. Fortunately I had a can of Big Swell IPA from Maui Brewing to chase the 330mL of Carlsberg badness.

Beer #4: Bitburger

This beer was consumed on Friday, but recent happenings have kept me from posting.

Bitburger brewed in Germany and imported, available in a 500mL can, and at my local grocery store.

It's nothing to write home about. Not much in the way of aroma or hops or anything beer-like. The review is particularly short because nothing about this beer jumped out at me.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Beer Backlog

I have not posted yesterday's. The Kirin beer was Thursday. I've got to make a trip to Hawaii's only beer specialty store...which is only a few miles from me, thankfully.

I will be posting a writeup of Friday's beer later today.

Beer #3: Kirin Ichiban

Beer #3: Kirin Ichiban

This is another Japanese beer that I'd never tried. I saw this one at Safeway and picked up a bottle. It comes in large bottles that hold 1 pint 6 fluid ounces, or 22 fluid ounces, or 65 centiliters.

Having not been super impressed with Asahi's super dry beer, I wasn't having hopes for the second Japanese beer I was about to try. And this beer is no exception. However, since I am drinking it as purchased from Safeway in the United States, one has to look at the side label and notice that it's brewed by Anheuser-Busch, Inc. Lame.

Though the beer definitely tastes different than any other beer I've had from Anheuser-Busch, it's still ordinary. It's not a dry beer, but it's sort of average in every other camp. Perhaps this is Anheuser-Busch's latest attempt to sell beer under the slogan drinkability. I don't really understand that slogan. I mean, beer is weird and different and if you don't like it, you don't like it. Don't water something down so people will drink it based purely on the fact that they won't gag. Antifreeze has drinkability. It's smooth and sweet. But you don't see Prestone selling it under that slogan.

I had medium expectations for the beer and got that. Oddly, I'd say it's better than Asahi only because it has actual flavor. It has a little hops to it, but nothing to make drinkability fans run screaming. Also, I like comparing beers to Duvel apparently, so compared to Duvel, it has similar head.

I can't really recommend this beer, unfortunately. The label is really confusing. I have absolutely no idea what the animal on the front is supposed to be. It looks horse like, but the head looks slightly cow like. It has scales. Also, it looks like it's on fire. You be the judge.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

100 Beers in 100 Days: Beer #1 & #2

Chris has decided to try 100 new beers in the next 100 days and I thought, "I like beer," so I'm joining in on the project.

It's going to be a challenge for me to find 100 new beers in Hawaii, but so far I've had success. The goal is to try 100 beers that you've never tried before. We'll see how far I get.

Beer #1: Asahi Super Dry

A Japanese beer I have not yet tried.

We can thank Asahi Breweries Ltd for coming up with the term "dry" to describe a fully attenuated pale lager. The word was adopted for products such as Michelob Dry as well as Bud Dry. I do have to admit that it makes for better marketing. Saying Michelob Fully Attenuated Pale Lager probably isn't going to sell a lot.

So what do you get with Asahi Super Dry? Not much to speak of. There is a unique flavor while drinking it (i.e., it must be actively touching taste buds since dry beer will leave no taste), but it's not at all hoppy. Internet claims Asahi Super Dry is made from special yeast, which may account for the unique flavor. Who knows?

The other very noticeable feature is the incredible amount of carbonation in the product, which is a characteristic of fully attenuated pale lagers. Some people like this, other people avoid gaseous beverages altogether. In Asahi Super Dry, the carbonation helps it go down or makes it appear more interesting than it really is. I do like Duvel, which has a lot of gas, but it does have a different flavor.

Regarding color, it's light but not nearly as light as typical American beers in this category. I would call it a light amber color.

In the United States, Asahi Super Dry is brewed by Molson in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Imported by Asahi's US division in Torrance, California, United States.

Is Asahi worth trying? Frankly, if you are a fan of fully attenuated pale lagers, I recommend trying Asahi if for nothing more than you can add an import beer to your list of liked beers. Your beer snob friends making fun of your request for Michelob Dry could be modified to ask for Asahi (don't say Super Dry). For me, I'm filing it away as a drinkable beer if I'm under beer duress, or a situation where none of my preferred beers are available but they happen to have plenty of Asahi on ice.

Beer #2: Widmer Hefeweizen

I do like hefeweizens, but they seem to come in all shapes and sizes. Widmer is a brewery in Portland, Oregon and this appears to be their flagship beer.

I like this beer. Good flavor and good aroma. Upon receiving a glass of Widmer Hefeweizen, notice the color. It's cloudy. This is interesting to me. It maintains this all the way to the bottom of the glass. Flavor remains consistent and good. It's not very bitter at all, just enough.

I can recommend this beer. No picture available because it was on draft and I was on the other side of the bar from the tap handle.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Car Warranty Calls

I have been getting these for the past 3 weeks on my cell phone. Usually about 2 calls a day. All from different numbers. The call comes in and reports a valid phone number. Once I speak (e.g., "Hello?"), the autodialer plays a recording telling me my car warranty is about to expire. Press 1 to speak to a representative or press 2 to opt-out of future special offers. Pressing 2 does nothing, the calls keep coming in. Speaking to a representative is also difficult.

The autodialer does not exist where the callers are. When you press 1, your call is routed to someone somewhere. Internet says the operators work from home and the autodialer rings their phone and they pick up and take the call. I cannot imagine what circumstances would make a person take that job.

I ask to be put on the do not call list, but before I can finish the question, the operator disconnects. These people are trained well. Any attempts to fish information out of them gets met with a disconnect. There is no way to call back either and you know nothing about them. Very frustrating.

Rob Cockerham posted a page about this very problem on his site. Rob's done a lot of great things for the Internet, including documenting many pranks and performing detailed scientific analysis of products in his kitchen. He's also become a consumer advocate of sorts, which is nice for us lay people because Rob has a bigger voice because he's been on TV and I think his name is on the Internet more prominently than mine.

Anyways, Rob is having the same trouble I'm having trying to get any information about these people. So I'm posting on my tiny little blog that 4.5 people read (maybe).

I've received calls that claim to be from the following numbers:
954-691-9656
603-214-3656
202-527-6024
609-718-0668
571-431-1262
760-526-8172
502-565-1340
205-561-2815
If you're receiving calls about extended car warranties and you have any additional information, please post here. I'm trying to find out who the company is.

If you are being annoyed by these calls, try to have some fun with them. Start giving out any of the above phone numbers as ways to contact you, but be sure to tell people you are extension 1. The only way to try to get information from these people is to talk the operator about the offer. Be sure to give them a fake car, possibly even several. Say you have 20 cars or 20000 cars. But be sure to pick old ones. Like a 1953 Nash Rambler or a 1965 International Harvester Scout or a 1954 BMW Isetta.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April 1 Worm

I've gotten a number of emails and questions regarding the April 1 worm, or the Conficker worm. For those who asked me, I didn't know anything about it until today. What I understand is that it infects Windows systems and will activate on April 1, 2009 and run wild.

As usual, I don't keep up with security concerns around Windows because I don't use Windows (and neither should you). However, Microsoft has put together a nice page explaining the problem if you think you have it:
Protect yourself from the Conficker computer worm
Microsoft has made some patches available as well as an updated version of the Malicious Software Removal Tool.

If you really are interested in removing malicious software from your system, consider dumping Windows entirely. I doubt the Microsoft tool will do that, so you are better off installing Linux. I recommend Fedora.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The F'ing iPhone

As of today, I am on my third iPhone. I bought an iPhone in January of 2008. Along with it, I bought the AppleCare plan. I always buy the AppleCare plan when I buy Apple hardware because I find it incredibly easy just to go to Apple and say "it's broken" and get a new one. If you have AppleCare, they'll do that. If you don't buy AppleCare, they tell you to buy a new one or (if you're lucky enough to still be in the 9 second standard warranty window) replace or repair it under warranty.

I've had lots of Apple hardware and for the most part it works ok. I've run Linux on all of it for most of the time, having most recently given Leopard a try for a year (I didn't like it, but I think it's a vast improvement over Jaguar which I had last tried for an extended period of time).

The iPhone has been a bit annoying to me. Having been through 2 replacements now, I wonder how much I should trust it. Here's what's happened to me:
  • When iPhone Firmware 2.0 was released, the phone didn't take it well. I was running 1.1.4 just fine. I plugged the phone in to my MacBook and iTunes immediately backed up the phone and gently urged me to shove 2.0 on the iPhone. OK, fine, do it. The upgrade left the phone bricked and my AT&T account hosed. Apple's genius bar couldn't figure it out, but I don't think they tried hard because since I had AppleCare, they could just give me a new phone and send me on my way....to the AT&T Store to fix my now busted account. The upgrade to 2.0 required me to get a new phone, I lost all of my voicemail, and all of the data on the phone. Fortunately my number remained the same.
  • A couple of weeks ago, I noticed the iPhone having incredibly short battery life. In addition, calls were not coming through all the time. They'd go straight to voicemail. But then I wouldn't get an alert that I had a voicemail until 2 or 3 days later. Same with SMS messages. Visual voicemail wasn't working, so I had to call the 800 number and check messages the old fashioned way. Apple's genius bar thought it was probably run away processes keeping the CPU active and draining the battery. To explain the other problems, the tech said it was probably "bad configuration settings." They requested that I go home, back up the phone, and do a complete restore of the iPhone but set it up as a new phone rather than restoring from a backup. That put the phone in a worse state than it was already. Again, since I have AppleCare, the next solution was to just give me a new phone.
What I don't like is not knowing why the phone keeps doing this. I don't jailbreak my phone or anything like that. I just have the stock stuff on it. I did have some free iPhone apps, but those are now gone.

My guess is that each time a new firmware update comes out, the ugprade process goes poorly. It munges something, perhaps settings or lock files or state files or something. I can only speculate since I can't actually get in to the firmware and see for myself. With each upgrade, I'm guessing the state of the iPhone gets progressively worse.

So, what will happen with firmware 3.0 comes out? I imagine I'll be getting another iPhone when that upgrade fails and takes the phone down with it. My AppleCare service goes through January of 2010, so I'm keeping the phone until then. I might go through 20 more, but I don't care.

For those curious, I have the original 8GB iPhone model. It's not a 3g iPhone. And no, I'm not buying one.

If anyone has any suggestions for alternative smartphones, post. I've gotten used to having a web browser (and a real web browser, not stupid WAP), email, and google maps on my phone. The other stuff is fluff: camera, calendar, app store, music, movies, and so on.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

End of the Superferry

The Hawaii Superferry is no more. The supreme court of Hawaii ruled that "Act 2" (a law enacted in 2007 that allowed the Superferry to operate without completing an environmental impact study--EIS) was unconstitutional. The ruling halted Superferry operations on March 19th, 2008.

The Superferry had some difficulties from the beginning. Services to Maui at the beginning were delayed for one reason or another. Protesters on Kauai prevented the Alakai from docking for 9 hours. Once people got off the ship, some protesters damaged the vehicles of passengers. The Superferry suspended services to Kauai indefinitely after that. Services to the Big Island were scheduled to start next year when the second ship arrived. But now that won't happen because of this court ruling.

An environmental impact study is conducted in part by the state department of transportation and all sources I can find say that could take up to a year to complete.

I was able to take the Superferry twice while it existed. On the first trip we didn't take the car, the second time we did. Both trips were fun and less stressful than flying.

In a time where the economic situation of Hawaii is worse than it was during the Great Depression, I find this court ruling to be incredibly irresponsible of the state government. Should an EIS have been conducted before the Superferry began operations? Yes. But to halt service and put around 250 people out of work on Oahu and Maui at this particular point in time seems stupid.

I'll still wear my Hawaii Superferry jacket.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Target Assets Protection

Most big box stores have some sort of store security. For retail stores, one of the biggest problems they have to deal with is theft. They give the people who check receipts when you leave the store the fancy title of Loss Prevention.

Karen and I went to the new Target in Salt Lake today to buy a random assortment of things. Walking in to the store, I saw what looked like a Segway from an angle, but when I looked closer I noticed it was a stand-and-ride tricycle. Painted on the side were the words ASSETS PROTECTION. The Target name and logo were prominently featured on the vehicle. Actually, it's probably easier for me to just show you:



And from another angle:



I found this vehicle amazingly hilarious. It made me think of Gizmoduck from Duck Tales. Also, the thought of store security chasing someone down on this thing is a hilarious thought. Could you run faster than it? It looks street capable, but it was not equipped with license plates, so I imagine they aren't going to be taking it for a spin on Salt Lake Blvd.

As I stood there taking pictures of it, people chuckled or ignored me. I cannot be the only person who finds this vehicle both hilarious and ridiculous at the same time.

And, Assets Protection? It guess it sounds a little more intimidating than Loss Prevention.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

PowerPC G4 System Requested

Does anyone have a PowerPC G4 system they would like to part with, preferably a Macintosh? I do not need a current Mac, but specifically a G4 Mac system. The original Mac Mini, an older PowerBook, or an older G4 tower system (the B&W, for instance, or whatever).

If you would like to part with it, let me know. Post here or email me directly. I am trying to find a Mac system for Fedora work.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Store Loyalty Cards

My friends know that I am very much against the idea of store loyalty cards. If you haven't been to www.nocards.org, go there now and read.

But then there's reality and the fact that I can't really shop for groceries at a place that doesn't require one of these fake discount cards. Pretty soon you have a stack of customer loyalty cards in your wallet. I don't want to carry around a giant stack of these things all the time. Now there's a way out.

I heard of www.justoneclubcard.com today, which is more or less what I want. Now I need a printer.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thanks To Everyone For The Birthday Wishes

I'd like to thank everyone who emailed me, sent a Facebook message, sent a card, sent a gift, or called to wish me a happy birthday. I am now 1E (or 30, for those of you who count in decimal). A lot of people asked me how I felt. I know turning 30 is a big deal for a lot of people and it certainly is a turning point for me, but what I'm really looking forward to is when I turn 20 (or 32, for the decimal counters). That will be 2^5, and the last time for me to celebrate a power of 2 birthday until I turn 2^6. It'll be a big party.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I Miss The Old eBay

I first used eBay in 1997. That's so strange to say now. It's certainly come a long way. Back then it was definitely something new and everyone was a little skeptical about selling things to other people via this web site. But a lot of us took the plunge and did it. Over time there developed some standard procedures that eBayers did out of respect for each other.

eBay has changed a lot in the past few years. I have no desire to buy or sell anything on it anymore because it seems to be way more hit or miss than it ever was. Things I dislike about eBay in its current form:
  • Buy It Now - This seems to cause a lot of listings to just appear and never go anywhere. Post on craigslist if you have a specific asking price.
  • Automatic Shipping Charge Calculation - eBay now automatically calculates shipping charges for you when you buy something. Not only does this suck for the seller, but it also forces you to use UPS. What if I don't want to use UPS? I always offered buyers the option of FedEx, UPS, or USPS. The automatic calculation does not take in to account the fact that sellers need to buy boxes and other packing materials to make sure your crap arrives intact. That was always added in to the shipping costs. Usually a couple of dollars.
  • Forced PayPal - PayPal is frustrating. I have an account and have had one since they first started. Early on it was ok, but now that eBay doesn't really offer sellers a choice, I like it even less. If someone buys something from me for $50, PayPal gets a portion of that. Sorry. And don't forget you also lose money on your shipping and handling charges. Hope you don't care about that either.
  • Stores Running Their Business Through Ebay - Get your own web site. Or, at least make decent looking eBay listings. All caps, centered, bold, italics, 32 point font is not easy to read.
  • No Money Orders - I always preferred money orders when I was buying or selling. Now it doesn't seem like you can do that anymore. Have to use PayPal. Money orders were insured, guaranteed, and cost little compared to PayPal.
So I'm giving up on searching for ham radio gear on eBay now. Maybe 10 years ago, but not today. It's just a waste of time for me now. I miss eBay when we sent money orders, feedback was genuine, and you were only dealing with people rather than eBay storefronts.