Sunday, December 18, 2011

New Alinco Dual Band HT Available

I have been waiting for this since it was announced at the Dayton Hamvention this year. Alinco has released the DJ-G29T dual band handheld. The price is $349.95 and both Universal Radio and Ham Radio Outlet are accepting preorders. Universal Radio says it should be available for shipping by December 27.

What is the significance of this radio? It is the first commercially produced radio specifically for amateur radio operators that covers the 900 Mhz band. Huh wha? Amateur radio operators have operating privileges on a wide range of bands in the radio spectrum. Not all bands have ready-to-use equipment that you can purchase. For example, if you want to operate on the 10 GHz band, you'll be building a transverter and antenna. If you want to get on the 144 MHz band, you can buy any number of handheld or mobile radios from many companies. 900 MHz is gaining popularity, but until this Alinco radio came out, we had to purchase used commercial gear and modify it for use on the amateur radio bands. Not always easy and not always possible with the gear you bought.

Most users on 900 MHz have commercial Motorola or Kenwood gear. At least the ones I have talked to. I have Motorola and love it. It's a pain to program, but that's not something I do often to care about. With the Alinco radio, I will have a radio I can program directly, something that is common in the amateur radio world.

To make the radio more appealing, Alinco added support for the 220 MHz band. 220 has seen more users than 900 and there are an assortment of club repeaters around the country. Still not as popular as 144 MHz or 440 MHz, 220 is at least a band that will give the radio user more likelihood of finding a nearby repeater.

The radio also supports crossband repeat, which could prove interesting in some use cases.

I have grown interested in the uncommon VHF and UHF bands in amateur radio and Alinco came out with a dual band radio that covers two seldom used bands right now. I love it. Interested in VHF and UHF but tired of 144 MHz and 440 MHz, try out some new bands with this radio. Also, consider buying it to encourage more manufacturers to cover bands other than 144 and 440.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

European Work Vacation

It's been about a week, but Karen and I are back from 15 days in Europe. I was there for a week of work in Brno, Czech Republic. We split the rest of the time between Vienna and Innsbruck in Austria. It was a really fun trip, wish we could have stayed longer but after 15 days we were ready to get back home. I've posted photos over here, more to follow. There are no Brno photos yet because I was working while in Brno, Karen got to see sights. Still going through photos to upload.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Visit to Atlanta

I was recently in metro Atlanta for several days. My sister was getting married and I helped out with different things. It was great to see everyone.

Karen and I were exhausted by Sunday. She left earlier than I because we bought tickets at different times. I had time to burn, so I met up with Logan in Atlanta and we got some food and hung out for a while. I wanted to go to El Torero, the restaurant we started going to every Friday night at Georgia Tech. We started doing that in 1997 and there is a group continuing to go these days. It has been years since I'd been.

Unfortunately, El Torero is closed on Sundays. Something I forgot. They Chick-Fil-A'ed us, so to speak. Fortunately there are plenty of similar Mexican restaurants around Atlanta, so we found the next nearest one that was open and went. Los Toros in Decatur.

Out of pure coincidence, our waiter at Los Toros was Luis from El Torero. Luis had been our regular waiter starting in 1997 and then after many years he left and we got a new regular waiter. Luis immediately recognized us and asked what was up. He told us he'd moved away from Atlanta and then came back and El Torero didn't have openings so he found one at Los Toros. Here's a picture of me and Luis:

Upon seeing Luis, I immediately fell back in to my usual order from the old days: sweet tea and a combination #4. Luis' response, "always the number 4, eh?" Damn right.

Logan found the situation entirely hilarious and noted that I seem to be a magnet for odd coincidences. Maybe so, but it sure is entertaining.

Logan also shuttled me to the nearest convenient parallel dimension...err, Apple buy an iPad 2. Yes, I have an iPad 2 now. It's fun on planes, what can I say?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Want Wireless Broadband Service At Home?

Broadband, 3G, 4G, WiMax....too many terms and acronyms. What do they mean and what's actually available in my area?

In the ever-expanding wireless Internet industry, 3G quickly became outdated, and 4G service is now the best available option. For some, this is frustrating, because as soon as they purchased coverage with a 3G network, something better came out. However, it is a simple reality that wireless Internet connectivity is how most of us will connect to the Internet in the future, as more and more areas, and more and more devices, become covered. That said, many people wonder which company to sign with when upgrading to 4G; people want to be careful to choose a company that they can rely upon and grow with in the future of wireless Internet expansion.

There are two leading competitors in the United States 4G industry: Verizon’s LTE service, and a similar service called WiMax offered by companies like Clear Wireless and Sprint. While both services bring you the fastest available wireless Internet over a broad range of areas, there are a few differences between them when it comes to coverage packages and pricing options. When you compare Clear Internet WiMax 4G and Verizon LTE 4G, here are a few of the key differences that you may want to focus on:
  • Typically, Verizon’s LTE service is slightly more expensive; however, this is in part because with LTE service you can purchase a package based essentially on how much use you will need out of your wireless connection. The different packages all have different monthly prices. By contrast, Clear’s WiMax service generally has a simple base package price that is generally slightly cheaper than most Verizon LTE packages.
  • Many people feel the need to use a 3G/4G combination of services, which enables your devices to switch automatically between the two wireless networks depending on availability. Verizon LTE service includes this feature automatically, in most cases. However, with Clear WiMax you will need to pay a small extra fee in order to receive this type of combination package, which can greatly improve the convenience of your Internet experiences.
Ultimately, the two wireless services are quite similar, and, again, both will bring you reliable high speed Internet over a range of different locations. However, the above listed points illustrate some of the most notable differences between the two services, and can be helpful when comparing the two to see which network best suits you. There are plenty of detailed comparisons with specific pricing information available online, and on both companies’ websites. Be sure to do adequate research before signing a contract with one or the other, as your wireless provider will have a lot to do with your Internet usage for the duration of the time that you are with them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On Google+

I'm on Google+ now and have been since June 29. I got rid of my Facebook account a while ago and I still have a Twitter account. I'm thinking about getting rid of my Twitter account. Google+ is interesting. It's not really revolutionary, just the same social networking site stuff done slightly better. I like it so far.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Remember This? Part 1 - Logitech Scanman

I enjoy technology history, but the web has far too many sites with the top ten worst computer gadgets ever made. Those lists almost always include things like the Apple Lisa and the Iomega Zip drive, which leads me to believe that it's really just the same article written over and over again. I feel there are plenty of other ridiculous gadgets in technology history that we should take time to remember. Also, I liked the Zip drive.

Back in the early 1990s scanners were expensive, required special connection hardware, required very expensive software, and required a large footprint on your desk. Most people couldn't justify the cost for the occasional desire to scan something in as an image. However, Logitech accepted the challenge and gave people an option so long as you were willing to accept half a scanner with no drive motor. The Logitech Scanman.

The Scanman came in a variety of models while it was produced, first in black and white and eventually learning how to see in color. The device was still basically the same. Roughly 6 inches across and requiring YOU to drag it backwards across whatever you wanted to scan both (a) in a straight line and (b) at a constant speed. Most people could never meet those requirements, but it didn't stop Logitech from selling tons of these things.

Companies like Kensington and Fellowes added contraptions to their accessory lineups (you know, the companies that made floppy diskette cases, computer locks, and similar items) that would allow you to drag the device in a straight line, at least helping you solve 50% of the problems you encountered.

I was given a Scanman at one point in 1993, a used black and white model. I eagerly plugged it in to my faux 486 system and struggled for a week to make it do anything. The best I got was a squiggly image of a flattened M&Ms package. Yeah, waste of time.

Hitting YouTube shows some people trying new things with the Scanman. Like using it on robots to follow a line in the ground. Yeah, I suppose that's interesting, until it reaches the limit of its six foot power cord. Still, amusing videos to watch.

Odds and Ends

I have a good habit of making work for myself at home. It's probably aligned with just having moved, but for every 3 things I cross off my to do list, I add 3 more. And it's all stupid stuff. Change these light bulbs, install a paper towel holder, install an air conditioner. These are extremely simple tasks that start with a trip to some store, then going home and choosing which task to complete, then realizing that you bought either the wrong stuff or not enough stuff. Happened to me today. Ah well.

Wanting to complete _something_ today, I went to the 24 hour CVS and sought out what I needed. I was able to hang some things on walls and install that damn paper towel holder. Air will have to wait for another day.

OK, time to see what terrestrial broadcasts are on TV. I've had enough chores for today.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Moving is Almost Complete

We have the keys to our new place and move in on Wednesday. It feels like it's been a while since we actually completed the drive. We were not able to move in to our new place until June 1.

Our new place is in Cambridge, MA. It's in the area we wanted and near other areas we wanted to be close to. My commute to the office will be 20 to 25 miles. I wish I could make use of the office shuttle, but it does not get to the office early enough for me. It also leaves a bit too early for me. Ah, the life of management I suppose.

On Friday my car decided to start acting up, so I had it taken in to the nearest VW dealer to where we are currently staying. An $88 tow, $100 diagnostic fee, and they will call me on Tuesday or Wednesday to let me know the other damage. I'm hoping it's routine stuff. We did just complete a 4100 mile drive with it. Prior to that, the car was living on the beach sipping mai tais and enjoying 2000 mile years. Time for it to work again.

Today Karen and I picked out a TV for the living room. We looked at TVs at Best Buy and then headed across the street to a Starbucks where I pulled out the laptop to order the same TV from Amazon. Price of TV in store: $649.99. Price of same TV on $649.99. Oh well, at least Amazon delivers it to your house.

I forgot to order an antenna, so we headed back over to Best Buy to pick that up rather than order it. Price of antenna in store: $67.99. Price of same antenna on $23.99. OK, so *that* we'll order.

The other exciting part about Wednesday is we get to clear out the storage unit that we filled up before moving to Hawaii. I pick up a rental truck Wednesday morning and then the archaeological dig begins.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Moving Across The County - Part 1

We are now in the Eastern time zone in the US and have not really posted anything on this blog. I think I said I would be doing that to a few people, but it never really happened. So here's a summary post.

Day 0

I picked up the car from Matson on April 26. Nothing really difficult there. I got back to Erin & Ish's house with no problems. We packed up the car and planned to leave the next morning. Erin & Ish sent us on our way with a rubber chicken.

Day 1

Karen and I left early on April 27. Our goal was to make it from Seattle, WA to Butte, MT. That's right around 600 miles (966 km). The drive through Washington state was mostly uneventful. It was easy driving out to Spokane. We stopped for fuel, lunch, and misc in Spokane. Spokane is more or less on the eastern border of Washington. We got back on I-90 and headed in to Idaho. The control city on the signs became Coeur d'Alene at this point. Idaho has a very narrow portion near the top, which is what we drove through. We made no stops in Idaho and went right in to Montana. I-90 through Idaho is very mountainous and has many chain hook-up areas off to the side of the road. The Montana state line was while we were descending on I-90 and the sign was really simple. Karen got a picture and we headed on to the rest area. We made a pit stop there and then kept driving. Our next major stop in Montana was Missoula for fuel and snacks. Missoula looked larger than I was expecting. Then back on to I-90 and on to Butte. We detoured off I-90 and too US 10A/MT 1 so we could pass through Anaconda, MT. We got a number of photos and some t-shirts while in Anaconda. Finally, we headed in to Butte to call it a night. We stayed at a Best Western because it had breakfast included and a restaurant connected to the hotel for dinner.

Day 2

We got up early and got breakfast at the hotel. It was during breakfast that we heard of the horrible storms that went through the southern US states. We didn't get much information while at the hotel, but friends and family were contacting me throughout the day. Our goal for this day was Cheyenne, WY. We decided that since the day 3 goal was Boulder, CO, we didn't really need to go as far as Cheyenne. We stopped in Casper, WY for the night instead. We stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel in Billings, MT. Around Buffalo, WY, I-90 turned east again and we continued on to I-25 to continue heading south. In Casper we stayed at a Hampton Inn which had a fantastic room. We ordered Pizza Hut for dinner and watched movies.

Day 3

We awoke to a snow covered car and snow falling. We waited to see if the snow would stop before loading up the car. Had our hotel breakfast and I read the USA Today and pretended to get news. Karen made some phone calls. I used the fold up sun shield for the windshield to clear the snow off the car. Worked ok so we could load up the car and head over to get fuel. There I used the window cleaning tool to push snow off the roof and hood. We got back on the road and headed south. The snow was gone relatively soon. Made it to Boulder where we met up with Greg & Mekayla. We went to the Boulder Beer Company for beer and buffalo burgers, then went to downtown Boulder to see the square. Had to call it a night early because we were leaving the next morning at 6 AM. They gave me an assortment of license plates

Day 4

Awoke around 5:00 AM. Got cleaned up and loaded the car and we were on the road. It was Saturday so there was no real traffic headed towards Denver. Once in Denver, we took I-70 headed east. We blew through the rest of the state and made it to Kansas somewhat quickly. Kansas took a little longer to clear, but that may have been because it was so flat with not much to see. From Topeka to Kansas City, the road became a turnpike. We paid $2.50 or somewhere around that amount to get to Kansas City. We exited on the Kansas City, KS side and drove through town to get to Kansas City, MO. I was curious how it was connected as border cities. Our friends live just a few blocks from State Line Rd, which is the state line (or at least near it...I saw no other official signage). In Kansas City, we got bbq from Oklahoma Joe's. We took it over to a park in the city and ate there, then walked around the park for a while. Our friends, Dennis & Janell, gave us a vehicle tour of the city before heading back to their place. They were also very helpful and let us do a load of laundry at their place.

Day 5

We awoke, got ready, and had biscuits and gravy for breakfast. They also had us some bbq sauce and local microbrews to take with us to Boston. After leaving their place, I stopped at QT to get the car some breakfast and to load up the car with caffeine for the day's drive. We got on I-70 and proceeded towards St. Louis. Made some fuel and pee stops, but didn't stop for lunch until we made it to I-55 headed south from St. Louis. The drivers around St. Louis were pretty aggressive and I was ready to leave that city behind. We headed all the way down I-55 to I-155. I-55 started to show signs of flooding, plus it was horrible rainstorms all the way. Though the roads were not actually flooded, all of the surrounding land was or had been flooded. We got on I-155 east and headed towards Jackson, TN. After I-155 ended, the road usage was going all over the place. We traveled on state highways, local roads, and US highways before reaching Florence, AL. In Jackson, TN, we heard the tornado sirens. We turned on the weather radio and heard the area was under a tornado warning. We stopped at a Burger King. Karen asked what their storm plan was. They said they would take everyone in the freezer. After having no better options and not wanting to be on the road if a tornado touched down, we camped out at the Burger King until the warning was lifted. I'm glad we did because a tornado did touch down not far from us. We got back on the road and continued to Florence. We were delayed an hour, but that did not stop my grandmother from having food ready for us.

Day 6

It was nice to not have to start a day driving. We had a nice breakfast and then toured Florence with my grandmother. We got local bbq for lunch. We went to the Helen Keller birthplace in Tuscumbia, AL and got some nice photos. At the end of the day, we met up with more of my extended family for dinner at Rosie's Cantina in downtown Florence. It wasn't until that night that it started storming, which was great because the weather cooperated for us while we were out and about seeing things.

Day 7

Got up slightly later than previous days, had breakfast, then loaded the car and headed to Atlanta. Made two stops on the way and got in around 6:15 PM. My mother had dinner waiting, which was nice.

Day 8

Got up later again, loaded wedding gifts in to the car, visited my grandmother, and after that I have been writing up this post.

In summary, a long trip, but a lot of fun. We have a lot of pictures to post, especially of the rubber chicken. We have been getting strange looks with the chicken, but it doesn't matter because he is an integral part of the trip now. Karen has been working on a book about the chicken's journey across the country.

Our target for tomorrow is Fairfax, VA. We're getting close to the end.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Barfy Boat to the Barren Bakery

We spent the weekend of April 22-24 in Victoria, BC visiting friends of ours: Michelle, Gaston, and their daughter Maia. We took the Victoria Clipper ferry from Seattle at 8:00 AM. It was a very nice ride and coffee was a mere $1 with unlimited refills. We met Michelle at the harbor and headed back to their place. Victoria is a very nice city and easily walkable. Its location on Vancouver Island makes it almost entirely surrounded by water. Which brings me to the title of the post.

Our first venture out in to Victoria was to go to an organic bakery to try their pain au chocolate. We neglected to realize this was the day before Easter, so the bakery was sold out of everything but a few cookies. Coupled with a somewhat bumpy harbor ferry ride, it made a number of us a bit sick. We decided to walk back rather than take the ferry, which was nice because we got to see more of that side of the harbor as well as walk across the drawbridge.

The weather was really nice during our entire visit. I was finally able to try poutine. I like it. I've posted pictures from our trip here. Wish we could have spent more time there, but it was still a nice long relaxing weekend. Definitely have to plan a return trip in the future.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Working From Seattle

Karen and I are a little closer to Boston. While we wait for ground transportation from these guys, we are staying with friends in Seattle. They took us around and showed us a few places that would be most useful to us while here: pubs, grocery store, and the bus system. It's a nice area and the weather cooperated for us yesterday. We walked around for a while, got lunch, and Karen and I tried to remain oriented.

To make matters more interesting, my phone decided it didn't want to work anymore. It had been turning off and just freezing quite frequently and yesterday it was particularly unusable. So we went to a Verizon Store where I asked what my options were and then left with a new HTC Thunderbolt 4G phone (and minus several hundred dollars). I really didn't want to deal with buying a new phone, but I need it for work right now, so I really had no option. Did I buy too much phone? Probably. Do I care? Nope, and it does a lot of things my old phone didn't.

After the Verizon store, we noticed we were a block away from the Seattle Center Monorail. The monorail isn't very useful considering it has only two stops, but I had to ride it. We paid our $4 per passenger for a round trip and rode the red train from Westlake Center to Seattle Center. We wandered around there for a while, then boarded the monorail for our exciting return trip. At just under 1 mile of track, the ride is over quickly. I advise paying attention to what you can see from the monorail because it's over so fast. The signs claim it travels at 45 mph while the Internet claims 50 mph.

We took the bus back to our friends' house. We learned that there is a free travel zone for the bus, so it's possible to ride the bus without ever having to pay. You pay when you exit if you happen to exit outside of the free zone (we did). It's a very strange protocol for public transit.

Tonight we are going to see the Seattle Mariners play the Detroit Tigers. I enjoy baseball games.

One thing I am still struggling with is Seattle's system for disposing of things. Recycling is complicated here. I have been giving Karen my trash so she can dispose of it in the proper container amongst the sorting bins.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Last Day In Hawaii

We made it through our final week. Cleaning the condo, getting the carpet shampooed (required by our lease), shipping the car, making final trips to donate household goods and clothes we don't want to ship, selling off all remaining furniture, and turning in the keys. There was a lot of stuff to do even on the final week.

I am happy to report that after 195 scheduled 3 AM work days across 67 consecutive weeks, I am done. Starting on Monday, I will be working in the much more desirable Pacific time zone. I can tolerate 6 AM for a week and a half before we get on the road to Boston. Protip: If you are ever offered a job that stipulates working on a time zone you are not currently living in, don't take it. It's a trap.

I've got to pack up my suitcase today and make sure gadgets are charged for our flight. On the other hand, I might just skip all that and just read and sleep.

Next post is from Seattle.

Monday, April 11, 2011

We're In The Final Week

Everything has been shipped, donated, or thrown out at this point. We are down to cleaning our condo before we turn in the keys. We are now in the guest bedroom at Karen's mom's place until we move on Saturday.

I have verified with Matson when I can drop off the car and what documents I need to show them. I need to make some photocopies of things and fax something (fax?), but other than that, everything seems in order.

First stop is Seattle, where we will be for about 2 weeks. Hope it's not too rainy. While in Seattle, I'd like to get some coffee, see the Museum of Flight (or at least just the Concorde and Air Force One), and ride the freaking monorail because monorails are awesome. The odds of being able to do any of these things are slim since I'm working the entire time there.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Last Week Approaches

Karen and I are about to enter our last week of living in Hawaii. We've been meeting up with as many people as possible to make sure we say goodbye to everyone. It's amazing how many people you meet in about 3.5 years.

Karen's last day at work was today. They held a very nice going away lunch party for her at a Japanese tea house. There were numerous skits, some hula, and two people playing Wanted Dead or Alive with altered lyrics about Karen leaving work. It was a lot of fun.

Karen does not have to work during our last week here, but I do. We have this weekend to take care of the majority of the final move out of our place and then cleaning it next week. The car begins its journey on Wednesday and then we are off on Saturday.

I'm not sure what our box counts are for the postal service and FedEx, but I can say that they now know me by name at the local FedEx Office. That's probably a sign that we're sending entirely too much stuff home.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Don't Look Directly At The Light

Just kidding, you sort of have no choice. These are ultra-widefield retinal images of my eyes. No one likes going to the optometrist (or even the ophthalmologist). The puff of air test. No one likes that.

My optometrist had recently installed a new imaging system and offered to do these ultra-widefield retinal images for you. The only catch was that insurance didn't cover it, so you had to pay $50. I said sure, so long as I got the JPEGs. They were happy to do that.

Here's my left eye:

And here's my right eye:

If your optometrist or ophthalmologist offers this service, I say take it. It helps them get a better view of certain parts of your eye, which is good for detecting diseases or conditions that have no symptoms until it's too late. Plus it's fun because you get the images to take home.

I had about a hundred technical questions about the equipment, which they were not at all prepared to answer. For the few minutes I interacted with the system, I could tell it was a camera about the size of a refrigerator. They ask you to hug the machine, open your eye wide, and get it as close to the lens (or whatever it is) as possible. There's a large flash and it's over. They repeat until they get images they like. Do the same process for the other eye.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Everything Is Fine

Thanks to everyone who called, texted, emailed, or otherwise found a way to contact us. As you can see on the news, the tsunami didn't do much in Hawaii. We had surges for several hours and definitely noticable water level increases, but we were evacuated in time and the state was well prepared.

Tsunami Warning

Tonight a 8+ magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of Honshu, Japan. An aftershock of 6.4 hit shortly after, and then the tsunami waves began. Hit for more details. Overhead video from helicopters showed the flooding as it happened.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center here in Hawaii issued a tsunami watch for all Pacific Ocean islands they monitor, as well as the entire state of Hawaii. The watch was upgraded to a warning and state and county civil defense have begun evacuation procedures.

A little over a year ago, this happened to us when the Chile earthquake threatened Hawaii with a tsunami. We are closer to Japan than Chile, plus the earthquake is stronger this time. Current predications are saying 2+ meter wave height in Hawaii for all coastal areas. First wave is due around 2:56 AM Hawaii time.

Right now we are watching the news, staying up to date with civil defense notices, and communicating with mainland friends and family to let them know we are fine. We do live in the inundation zone, but we are not to evacuate unless we are below the 3rd floor. Things may change and we may have to evacuate, but for now we stay put.

Waikiki itself is very crazy tonight. Lots of people getting out and police are everywhere on loud speakers. Stores closed early so as to prevent long lines and panic buying and to keep people at home or in hotels.

I am posting to Twitter as long as I have cell service. Click here for my Twitter feed.

For now enjoy a cell phone video I took during the second siren and managed to get on YouTube.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Moving Begins

It's sort of been in progress for a while, at least planning. But I feel like Karen and I have actually started the process of moving back to the mainland. I'll miss Hawaii and I know Karen will, but we really need to be back on the mainland. Hawaii will become a periodically visited former home for us.

Our target move date for leaving the island is April 16. There are a lot of variables at play, which is why I call it the target date. So what are we doing now?

We have been packing, shipping, and getting rid of many things. Pretty much all of my stuff from the office except what I use for my job on a daily basis is now back in New England. I make a few trips to FedEx and USPS each week to drop off something. Karen has been doing a great job going through our household things figuring out what we can donate, what we want to keep, and what is really just destined for the trash.

One room at a time, it'll get done. It occurred to me the other day that I'm about to send in our last full rent check. It's sort of strange. Honolulu is now the place I've lived the longest post-university. Not just the city, but even the apartment.

We are getting excited about returning to New England. Seasons, sports on TV at night, Amazon Prime, CSA, road trips, skiing, rail, larger cider selection for Karen, Vermont and New York cheeses, Sound Bites in Ball Square, non 5 or 6 hour difference to call friends and family, Trader Joe's, and massive tax savings by moving to MASSACHUSETTS!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Laptops Laptops Laptops

My ThinkPad X301 decided to enter failure mode while I was at FUDCon Tempe. I travelled with two laptops, so I was still able to get online, but the ThinkPad is my primary development system. The other laptop was really just for email, IRC, and web browsing.

I waited until I was back in Honolulu to get the X301 serviced. That ended up becoming 2 weeks of phone tag between me, Lenovo, and IBM. As well as some other interested/concerned parties wanting to learn more about why my laptop was still not working. As of today, the system board, wireless card, battery, and fan have all been replaced. The SSD is on order and will be here at the end of the month.

Based on the condition of the X301, my employer overnaught me a T60 so I could get my development environment back up and running. The T60 arrived on Tuesday and it took me a day to get it reinstalled and data restored (in between working on things via my netbook).

Lastly, before all of this started, I decided to order myself a new personal system. I bought a ThinkPad X201 and it arrived today. So I now have three ThinkPads in my office, two of which are usable.

I am really tired of FedEx coming by to drop off or take laptop parts, IBM coming by, and Lenovo calling me. I appreciate the concern, but really I would have just preferred the depot warranty service rather than the onsite service. It has been a colassal waste of my time.

While the situation has been irritating, I suffered no data loss from the incident. And getting new systems back to the same state as the X301 has been easy. I keep a collection of kickstart files for all of my systems that do an install the way I prefer (partitioning, package set, system systems, etc) and then run a number of postinstall scripts to configure things necessary for work and my own use. I back up my data each night to tape, so restoring /home was a matter of plugging in the tape drive and using tar.

I'll probably post more information about the X301 repair story later.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

FUDCon Tempe 2011 - Recap

I see lots of FUDCon Tempe recap posts on planet.fp.o, so here's mine. I have to say this was the best FUDCon I've been to yet, in terms of:
  • Participants
  • Work accomplished
  • Sessions
  • Venue
Most important to me were going over anaconda feature planning for the next few releases of Fedora. Visit the wiki page for ongoing details. Summary: we have a lot of work coming up.

This is not to say that every past FUDCon is terrible. They are all unique in their own ways, but I felt that this one in particular had a lot of people from all over the world who benefited from getting together for a few days, a great location (so no one in bad moods because of the weather), and good amenities. All that said, I think FUDCon could make some improvements for future events. So here are my lists:

  • The booklet. Whoever came up with this idea is brilliant. This was hands down one of the greatest advancements in FUDCon events ever. Sure, we put things on the wiki, but having a quick non-computer reference for the most important stuff was fantastic. A letter from Jared, explanation of what a bar camp is, one page map with the buildings we need to care about highlighted, lists of restaurants and stores, and a schedule with blank spaces so we could fill it in after the bar camp voting was done. Perfect! I also really liked how it came with errata in the form of a sticker on the second page. Great forward thinking here, given that locations always change at the last minute.
  • The venue. Most FUDCons I've been to have been on a university campus, this one was no exception. ASU was in a good location and had usable wifi AND wired network access for us. Also, the network could handle FUDCon user capacity without falling over. Big win there.
  • The hotel. I was in the Courtyard Marriott. It was within walking distance of ASU and restaurants, had free usable wifi in the lobby, and had wired network access in the rooms. The hotel also gets points for having a liquor license that covered the lobby so we could freely drink in the hotel common area during our social events (for non-US readers, liquor license restrictions vary by state and municipality and can get really strange, most Americans assume you _can't_ have alcohol somewhere unless explicitly told it's ok.)
  • The city. I had never been to Tempe and was pleased to find it a good fit for FUDCon. There were great restaurant and socializing options, nearby stores for those who forgot equipment or toiletries, and light rail connection to Phoenix (I didn't use it for this, but heard others did). Tempe also features the Tempe Butte sort of in the middle of the town. I know at least two FUDCon people who went to the top on the last day.
  • The sessions. There were a lot of great session ideas pitched. I ended up doing two myself, but the ones I was able to attend were great.
  • The people. When the right Fedora people are in the same place for a few days, good things happen. You could see this just by wandering around the lobby on the session days, the rooms on the hackfest day, or just the hotel lobby.
  • The social events. I did not attend FUDPub because jet lag caught up with me, but the social events at the hotel were great. I think we overestimated the beverage needs, but I guess it's better to have more than to have not enough.
  • The availability of beefy miracle tshirts.
  • No food or drink in the classrooms at ASU. I did not care about the food so much, but not being able to have drinks in the rooms when our sessions run back to back was a bit of a disappointment.
  • Limited whiteboard availability during the hackfests on the last day.
  • Far less usable wifi on the hackfest day, most likely related to the fact that we were in the student union building that day.
  • The hotel was next to a Union Pacific rail line (as in across the street) level crossing. I was fortunate enough to be on the other side of the hotel, but for people close to the tracks, FUDCon organizers distributed ear plugs.
Beefy Miracle:
Weird Things Noticed In Arizona:
  • Arizona law requires a copy of the US constitution be on display in every public classroom in the state (the link I provided specifics grades 7 through 12, not sure where ASU fits in to that).
  • Outdoor seating is common at restaurants, but they put huge propane heaters next to tables. I guess the Arizona locals really want their winter to be like their excruciatingly hot summers?
  • Locals wore coats.
Things That Could Be Done Better Next Time (event and for myself):
  • We had too much soda and liquor for the social events. I guess it's better to have too much than not enough.
  • I would like to see Coke Zero provided amongst the event sodas.
  • I brought two extension cords this time, one with 3 outlets on the end. Proved useful on hackfest day, but I should have also brought a wifi router so we could all easily link up for hacking.
  • Needed some Ethernet patch cables.
  • I need to verify the functionality of both laptops I take before leaving on the trip. My ThinkPad X301 was dead in the water at the event, so I only had my netbook.
  • The booklet was really useful, but I'd like it to be closer to pocket sized than US letter sized. I'm thinking half the dimensions of US letter would be sufficient.
In conclusion, great event. I'd like to thank the entire anaconda team for making it. It was the first time we were able to have a meeting with all of us in person.

Also thanks to everyone involved with event planning and coordination. I'm sure I'm likely to forget names, but the ones that come to mind are Jared Smith, Robin Bergeron, Ryan Rix, and Ian Weller. If I forgot your name and you were involved with event planning, post a comment or email me and I'll correct this post. You guys did a great job with this event!

And now I'm back in gloomysunny Honolulu awaiting my next trip to the mainland. If any Fedora people want to have a mini FUDCon in Honolulu some weekend, let me know.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

FUDCon Tempe 2011

I figured I'd join the other people posting about the same event. I leave in a few hours for FUDCon Tempe 2011. I've lost count of the number of FUDCons I've been to. A lot.

This FUDCon is unique for the installer team in that it's the first time all of us will be in the same geographical location. Some of us have been working together for 3, 4, 5, or more years without ever having met in person. We will be pitching a number of talks as well as a holding a huge feature planning meeting intended to cover the next several Fedora releases.

I look forward to seeing everyone there. Old faces, new faces, and In-N-Out Burger1.

UPDATE: (Originally posted with the wrong tag to show up on planet.fp.o, fixed that. Currently using free wifi at SLC, except it only allows port 80 and port 443 traffic out. Lame. My phone is more capable.)

1 That's what a hamburger's all about.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Snowpocalypse - Atlanta 2011

No, I have not lived in Atlanta for a long time now (moved away in 1999, then got pulled back in 2001, then moved away again in 2005). But my parents and sister live there, as do a number of friends. This past week, the southeastern portion of the United States experienced unusual winter weather. My sister posted pictures of my parents house here.

Atlanta is known for extremely mild winters with the occassional ice storm. Growing up I remember one snow storm that resulted in snow accumulation that we could walk around in and shovel (it was referred to as the Blizzard of 93). Given the infrequent nature of snow in Atlanta, the region just does not have the equipment or resources to handle things like plowing and salting. So a significant snowfall in Atlanta will result in closings of most schools, businesses, and other non-critical things. My mother is a schoolteacher for GCPS and their system was closed for the entire week. My sister had to work from home numerous days because their office building was closed. And my father spent the night at his office to ensure he would not be blocked by road conditions.

I think the region is more or less back to normal, but it was probably a fun week for all of them. In Hawaii we have been experiencing lots of rain and flash flooding. It's also incredibly humid.

Anyways, Atlanta residents...glad things are back to normal. My recommendations for extreme winter weather (for when it happens in another 5 to 10 years):
  • Drive with headlights on, but not high beams.
  • Drive in the tracks of previous cars. That is, if you see pavement, go for it rather than packed snow or ice.
  • Drive slowly. This is probably the most annoying thing about winter driving, but it's also the most important. Depending on conditions, this can mean half the speed limit or even lower.
  • Don't tailgate. If you hit a patch of ice, you want enough room between you and other objects.
  • A couple bags of play sand in your trunk can help vehicle stabilization. But don't open the bags.
  • Yaktrax are handy for getting to/from your car, to the mailbox, etc.
And lastly...
  • Clean the snow off your cars, including the roof. It's not nice to other drivers to let the wind knock sheets of snow and ice off your roof. That can damage other cars.
I bet it was a fun week!

Taking Care of Some Minor Fedora Work

It's a nice Saturday afternoon and while I take a break from packing up things in my office, I decided to work through a number of Fedora bugs I've had open for a while. I reassigned some anaconda networking bugs to Radek Vykydal, as he is our new go-to guy for anaconda networking code now. I tested a few other bugs to see if they've been cleaned up with other recent changes and closed those that were.

For packages, I worked on a couple wicd bugs. One that took me a while was #661226, which provided a systemd service file and links to instructions on how to change the package over to systemd. I think I've done this correctly, but as I state in the bug, I've asked the original reporter to test things out.

I upgraded the calendar package to the version that shipped with OpenBSD 4.8. No code changes, just corrections to included calendar data files.