Feb 28, 2009

Offer accepted! Only 3 vertical miles to go.

We got the call last night that our offer was accepted for the house. We were excited for about 15 minutes, then we started to think about all the stuff we have to do now and all the things that could still sour the deal. I made an appointment with a home inspector. If he comes up and find the place needs $20K in roof work, well, then the deal's off. I also will conduct a little 'neighborhood review'. This is where I walk the street the house is on and see what my potential neighbors think of the area. If I start getting stories of meth labs and hobo camps, the deal is off. Then there's the appraisal, the title search, and a slew (slough?) of other things that could stop the process.

So we are hopeful, maybe even optimistic. But I save my happy dance for when we are actually living there.

Feb 25, 2009

Vertical Vacation

I am going to push it a little bit harder out in service next month. My volunteer field work has kind of flattened out of late and I want to ramp things up a bit. To that end, I am taking some time off from work in March. I thought about taking a solid week off, but that would leave three other weeks that I couldn't do anything. So I decided to still take a week off, but take it one Monday at a time. There are 5 Mondays in March so I taking every Monday off. I am calling it a 'vertical vacation' (see visual aide). This allows me to do a little more each week, instead of totally hammering it for a full week and then doing nothing for the rest of the month. I think it will decrease the possibility of me burning out and regretting the effort and increase a general sense of joy (which as eluded me for some time).

I am hoping to visit my Gramma more often and maybe spend some time actually speaking Arabic to some householders. I haven't been able to due the latter in a long time. There is only so much a person can learn from Pimsleur :)

Vista Wireless IP Addressing: Bound to fail.

I have had Vista running on my laptop for a little over a year now. Most of the initial wierdness of Vista has been patched away through various updates and service packs. But there is one problem that persists. It's difficult to put the problem into a single phrase, but basically Vista has binding problems with my wireless adapter that, in turn, are causing DHCP assignment problems. These DHCP issues then prevent my laptop from getting an external IP on various wireless networks. But I have recently found a workaround that had reproducible results. Try it if you like, and let me know if it works.

Scenario:

I connect to my wireless network at home and am issued an IP via my routers internal DHCP server. Everything is fine and I can get online with no problems. But then I take my laptop tp work (or anywhere with an open wireless AP) and cannot seem to connect. Even though I should be getting a new IP from the other routers, Vista consistently fails to get one and assigned itself an APIPA address (e.g. 169.254.x.x). This of course prevent any access to the outside world. The little icon in the system tray lacks the tiny 'globe' and indicates I have 'local access only'. No matter how many times I try to disconnect/reconnect from the router (or different routers) I get the same result. I know there are more than enough leases available in the DHCP range, and I know my wireless adapter works (since it was working at home).

Cause (suspected):

Vista seems to bind it's first acquired IP address to the adapter and won't let go. Though the UI tells me the laptop has been disconnected from the network, it's my belief that Vista actually stays logically bound to the router (and its' assigned IP) somewhere in the registry.

Workaround:

Reboots do no good. Having Vista 'diagnose' the problem (whatever that actually means) does nothing. Here is a list of what I have to do to get Vista to forget its' previous network bindings and acquire new ones (make sure you are not connected to any networks when you do this):

Open the 'network settings' object. This used to be easily available in XP, but in Vista the fasted way I have found to get there is by running "c:\Windows\System32\ncpa.cpl". Once there, right click on the wireless network icon and go to properties. Go to the TCP (v4) listing and click the properties button. Note how the TCP setting are telling Vista to get its' IP info from a DHCP server by having the IP address and DNS servers obtained automatically (if these are not set to 'automatically', then this workaround doesn't apply to you).

Change both IP and DNS sections to 'use the following...' and enter any number you like (doesn't have to be legit numbers, just make sure they are no higher than 254 and amke sure all octets have something in them). Click OK to set these numbers and reboot.

Once rebooted, run ipconfig at the command line to make sure the numbers stuck. Then go back to the same network settings page you used before and reset both the IP and DNS sections to 'automatically'. Click OK all the way out of the network settings dialog. If you then run ipconfig right away you should see nothing listed as the IP. But if you keep running it, within 10 seconds or so you should then see a legitimate assigned IP from the new router. The little 'globe' then appears in the system tray and external access is then again possible.

The whole process takes about 4 minutes once I get the steps down. Works pretty consistently for me. Let me know if it works for you!

Feb 24, 2009

TMNT: Best Exploding Ninjas in History

I hadn't downloaded any new games on my XBox in some time, so last night I thought I would take a walk through the game catalog and see what was new. Somewhere in the middle of the list was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Classic Arcade. When I was about 15, this game was at the local 7/11 and I played it a few times. But back in the day, I only had a few quarters so I tended to gravitate toward pinball since I usually won free games. But now that this game has been ported to XBLA, it's like my pockets are full of magic quarters that never run out.

The best part of the game are the violence sidesteps taking by the designers. In the original Eastman & Laird comics, there was a lot of blood. I mean, these were Teenage Mutant NINJA Turtles after all. Lots of eviscerations, decapitations, and other general indie comic fare. But that would never do once TMNT had been sold off to corporate marketeers. So the cartoon was sterilized and the violence reduced to the consequence-free kind. But this game had lots of fighting, slashing, kicking, and other beat 'em up type moves. What's a game designer to do? Exploding ninjas, that's what. All the standard baddies are Foot Ninja. They come at you with knives, swords, guns, and bombs. You come at them with the katana, the bō, the nunchaku, or a pair of sai daggers. You would think there would be copious amounts of gore, but nope - the attacking ninja just explode. And when fighting them, the Turtles don't stab, pummel, or disembowel. They mostly use their weapons to 'throw' the Foot ninja across the room. Don't ask how you throw someone with a sword, because I don't know.

What I do know is TMNT is THE best exploding ninja game I have ever played.

Feb 19, 2009

Arabic: It's everywhere you want to be

You know how, when you get a new car, you start to notice that same make and model everywhere? Or how pregnant women see other pregnant women everywhere? Well, I think this is happening to me. Not the pregnate part, but the 'seeing something everywhere' part. I have been suspect I was developing this trait for some time, seeing Arabic script on a bags of basmati rice, seeing smilely faces as Arabic T's, etc. But a recent episode of Futurama has put me in a place where I can no longer deny it.

I was just chillaxin' after work watching the TV and came across a rerun of the pilot episode of everyone's favorite Simpsons/Jetsons hybrid, Futurama. Parts of that episode takes place during New Years Eve of the year 1999 (and later the year 2999). During two different sequences they show people counting down to midnight; ten seconds with each second spent in a differnt country. I had seen the episode several times in the past, but this time I was caught when they showed a one second scene of Egyptians shouting 'SABBA!'. That's Arabic for 'seven'. And later I heard another countdown (to the year 3000) where the same people shouted 'THAMANYA!'; that's 'eight'. The weird part for me was that I picked it up so fast. I guess those Arabic words are officially in that part of my brain the never forgets anything, ever.. You know that part? It's the same place I keep the address we lived in when I was in 3rd grade (which I haven't had to recite since 1984) and the Pledge of Allegiance (which I stopped saying in 1985). So, congratulations basic Arabic words, you now are in for life. Stay off the sofa*.

*the term sofa is also from the Arabic word meaning "the raised section of floor, furnished with rugs and cushions, set apart for a council". I'm telling you, it's everywhere.

Feb 15, 2009

More signatures. More baby steps forward.

We spent a few hours with our Realtor the other day as we finally made a formal offer of the house. After signing like 50 documents with the mortgage broker a few weeks ago, there were ample more opportunities to sign papers with for the offer. The 'Purchase and Sale Agreement' (or, PSA) was one long document with over a dozen places to sign and initial. Our agent, Lindee, was very diligent in explaining what every signed page was actually saying. I appreciated her effort, but towards the end of the second hour I was like 'can't we just blindly sign these and be done?'. She assured me that it was very important that I knew what I was signing...pffft, I guess.

We originally had put an expiration on our offer of Friday, February 20th. But the selling agent had informed Lindee that there are no less than 20 people that have to approve this offer. Apparently, this is an estate sale where the original owner (a man named Clarence Yesland) has passed on and his heirs (all 20 of them?) must all come to terms with our offer and sign off on it. So needless to say this is far from a done deal. I mean really far. For example, my extended family only has half a dozen people in it (my Mom, a few uncles, etc) and they seem to be unable to come to agreement on much of anything. Here's hoping the heirs of Mr. Yesland are not Irish.

Feb 11, 2009

DQ: Somewhat Indifferent

We recently returned from a road trip to Southern California. It was a business trip primarily (I attended the SharePoint Best Practices conference), but we also combined some personal travel. On the way home we stopped in a small Oregon town called Bandon. We had lunch at the DQ and I was impress at how clean and tidy the store was. So much so, that I thought it was a new DQ. I spoke with a charming older women behind the counter (who, as it turned out, was the owner) and she said they were by no means a new store. In fact they had been at that location since the 1970's. We had a nice visit and good junk food, and went on our way.

After I got home I went to the DQ corporate website to tell them about my good experience and I got timely response from "Beth" thanking me for my positive remarks. The thing is, Beth apparently doesn't work for DQ. Her email came from DQConsumerRelations@tellusaboutus.com. I looked up this 'tell us about us' domain and they appear to be some marketing firm in Canada. Canada?! It's bad enough that DQ can't spring for their own public relations engine. But to use a foreign firm AND to send their customers emails from said firm is just too stupid not to be noted. I mean, when I clicked on the 'talk to DQ' button, I assumed I was talking to DQ...not to some marketing firm. I guess I should have known better. That's what I get to giving positive feedback I suppose.

But seriously, if you are even in Bandon check out the DQ. It's great!

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Feb 4, 2009

SharePoint Best Practices Conference: Day 3

Well day three has come and gone and it's time to say goodbye to sunny San Diego. I spent the last day of the conference in mostly cabana sessions. One session was hosted by echoTechnologies. They sell a product that allow management and distrubution of master pages, web parts, etc across multiple site collections. The demos were impressive, and the speaker was knowledgeable. But the other echoTechnologies guy, who wasn't speaking, was kind of a tool. He had a real 'Johnny Rotten' look going on, and he kept taking up-close pictures of the attendees (with the flash on - very annoying). He also left in the middle of the session at least three times to get coffee, answer his not-set-to-vibrate phone, and who knows what else. It was clear he wasn't really interested in being there. I also attended a session by Bamboo which was also somewhat lackluster. Maybe it was just becasue the conference was about over people were phoning it in.

There was also another rather large convention starting up during the last day of SPBPC. Some company called Inflection, I think. I guess they were a little worried about all us SharePoint nerds eating all their food, because several signs like these appears around the convention halls.

So this years conference has come to a close. I have spent three days drinking from the fire hose and survived. My brain is full but I am looking forward to putting some of what I learned into practical use when I get

Feb 3, 2009

SharePoint Best Practices Conference: Day 2

The big prize drawing. I didn't win :(

Day two has come and gone with some excitement, some disappointment, and a whole lotta SharePoint lovin'. I will start with the latter. I started the day off attending a cabana session with Ascentium called 'Art of the Possible'. Ascentium is a SharePoint consulting firm that has done some work for some of WSIPC's own customers (well, only one that I know of). Their presentation was light on the marketing and heavy on the real-world examples of what can be done with SharePoint. Pretty impressive stuff to be sure. They had a little drawing for a $100 gift card, but I didn't win :(

Later in the day I attended a breakout session with this catchy title: 'Training Staff Responsible in the Various Roles and Responsibilities'. Yikes. What this session lacked in titular brevity, it made up for with minimally useful information and a speaker with some "ESL" issues. Not my favorite session.

The best session of the day was "Anonymous Access Best Practices" by Paul Stork. Paul really knew the topic well and was able to answer all my questions. Turns out, we have been going about anon access SharePoint in an entirely incorrect way. I am glad I attended this session before we made the switch to anon access SharePoint in production.

During the first day I dropped my business card off with a few exhibitors for thier various drawings. Some were giving away iPods, some gift cards, but the big prize with the $1000 cash giveaway from the Best Practices folks themselves. Despite all my wishing, I didn't win the big prize, or any of the gift cards. But I did score a sweet iPod Nano in one of the drawings. So now the questions is: do I keep it or sell it? I think I will sell it.....

Feb 2, 2009

SharePoint Best Practices Conference: Day 1

Just finished day one of the SharePoint Best Practices Conference in San Diego, California, US (heretofore referred to as SPBPC). Day one was rich in useful content. I attended the keynote by Joel Oleson. Joel laid out how the conference was going to go and gave his particular opinion on how a SharePoint world should be run. He's certainly has the bona fides, but he seemed a bit light on the 'SharePoint is only as good as the people behind it' and bit heavy on the 'people who don't like SharePoint are asses....am I right ladies?'. However I really liked the first breakout session I attended: 'selling governance to your organization'. I went to a few other breakouts too, but this one was the best by far.

I made a decent swag haul today. Got a nice SPBPC bag and sundry other dodads and thingamagizmos including a tiny wind-up flashlight. I completed my 'exibitor bingo' card and entered to win a contest (the drawing is tomorrow). There are multiple vendor drawings throughout the conference for iPods, Zunes, etc. I entered a few times; maybe I will score something cool.

Overall there were are a few complaints about how the conference is being run. Nothing huge, but very annoying. For one, the hotel where the conference is being held, the Hilton La Jolla at Torry Pines, charges $13 per day for Internet access. So the first day I checked in I bought 3 days of worth in access. It was only the next day the the conference informed the attendees that they were providing free internet access with a special promo code. Too late for me because I had already paid up like a sucker. Also, the hotel charges $12 per day for parking and the conference apparently isn't covering that either. And the layout of the hotel is such that one must walk quite a ways to get from the exhibitors hall to the breakout rooms and back to my room during the breaks. A full circuit takes at least 20 minutes, and that's if I push it. But none of these are big enough to keep me from coming back next time.