Friday, January 05, 2007

Scott tagged me and four others on this tell-me-something-new meme, so now it's my turn. In no particular order, here are my five things you (seriously) didn't know about me. Not the easiest thing to do, but as they say, I am bound by honor to post and tag...

  1. I took only one computer class in college, and didn't pass it. In fact, it was so boring and elementary I could not stand to be there. Instead I spent the semester figuring out how to get an Appletalk network to communicate with a bunch of IBM 5150s that we had networked with 10-Base-2 coax. The grade killed me, but the alternative experience was worth so much more.
  2. I was a foster parent for many years. Fourteen kids, over about eight years. Single parent style, almost all of them special needs kids. All of them were terrific in their own ways. I lived in a foster home for a very short time when I was a teenager, and the people who I lived with I have never thanked. I need to do that. They influenced me in a unique way that no one else ever did, for the good. Their selfless act motivated me to do a lot of things that I hope helped others in some way. My desire (or need, or whatever you chose to call it) to help others in ways similar to the manners in which others have helped me has been the root of both pain and passion for me over the years.
  3. My senior year in high school I played Tony in West Side Story. Like as in the lead, sang all the songs and did all the dance and acted all the lines. Orchestra in the pit, chain link fence massive set, the works. Yes, I can still sing the songs. People look at me with a blank stare when they hear this. I was also an all-state tenor that year. These days I limit myself pretty much to singing with my guitar at home and the occasional church hymn from the pews.
  4. I've been a halftime highlight on ESPN and a major television network twice, and I was injured both times. Once was when I was photographing a NCAA tournament I was landed on by a player who was fouled (hard) under the basket. The other time I was pummeled by a football player who was out of control coming off the field while being tackled. He tackled me, but good. Oh, and I used to be a photojournalist and did a lot of sports and news photography for about eight years.
  5. After working as a photojournalist, I was a police officer for about 7 years. You could say I chased ambulances and then did something close to driving them, I guess. It was a great experience and I have nothing but the utmost respect for the good people who do that job. I was pretty good at the job, but it was not so good for me. So, here I am - a professional computer jock. Or manager thereof, I suppose. Ah, how I long for the days of doing respectable, real work. Heh.

That's it.

Oh, wait... I'm tagging Brent, Matt, Rich, Simon and Alex. Alright guys - You're it!

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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Friday, January 05, 2007 10:07:13 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
 Monday, January 01, 2007

Just a few goofballs hanging out on New Year's Day. We watched WWE, played the 20Q game, did party poppers, ate nachos, and whatever. And hey, goofball is fun.

Greg, Rogan and Cory
Above: Greg, Rogan and Cory hanging out at the place (listed in order seated in the picture, left to right and I explain that just so Cory doesn't get upset about being last, heh).

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Humor | Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Monday, January 01, 2007 7:34:49 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)

I'm in the process of moving my email for the domain to a new mail server, and I've realized - once again - just how complicated spammers have made our lives. Especially from a technical standpoint.

PTR records in DNS and RBL records on services that no one ever heard of and which have no set rules to determine what gets on the list or how to engage them in getting off a list. What a mess. Luckily I am not on any RBL lists (with the exception of one idiotic one that everyone seems to be on, and which I certainly hope no one ever uses). But I have friends and acquaintances who have been in that boat before and it's not fun.

But the biggest pain with moving a mail server has to be DNS propagation and the wrenches people throw into it. Enough time has passed that all locations should be pointing to the new mail server, because the old DNS records have expired. Yet there are a significant number of (large and prominent) email and Internet service providers (including my own) that are apparently caching longer than the record provides. Fun. That means I am checking two mail servers (and that's a bit of a challenge, let me tell you), and that I cannot send email to pretty much anyone until the planets align and the name server records line up.

Even my web site still has a few bots and spiders and other systems munging through it. I wonder if they'll notice when I turn it off?

One other thing I have observed. The spammers also don't respect caching of DNS records, but in the opposite manner. Instead of caching a record for too long, they completely ignore the cache settings to make sure they can flood your new mail server with as much crap as possible, as quickly as possible.

Ah, gotta love it!

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Tech | Things that Suck
Monday, January 01, 2007 10:47:54 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
 Saturday, December 30, 2006

New RDP client UI MS has released v6 of it's Remote Desktop Connection client.

Remote Desktop Connection (Terminal Services Client 6.0) provides a way to use any new Terminal Services features introduced in Microsoft Windows Vista and Microsoft Windows Server Code Name “Longhorn” from a computer running Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or Microsoft Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1.

The features in this release are really about Vista and Longhorn server for the most part. But, one feature that works in XP while connecting to Windows Server 2003 (and I was prompted to do this by default after upgrading, by the way) is the option to provide the username and password in the client before logging on, and the option to save that information so you don't have to re-enter it each time (not sure I like that specific idea for security purposes, but it has its place, and there are several security enhancements when connecting to Vista and Longhorn server).

Download it from Microsoft here. Read the KB article here (which includes links to versions for OSes other than 32-bit XP, as well).

(via Omar)

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IT Security | Tech
Saturday, December 30, 2006 2:14:42 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
 Friday, December 29, 2006

To add to my totally analog Christmas (and the subsequent mostly-analog vacation week that's followed), my friend Cory and I started building a shed in the back yard this morning. We only had a few hours to work today, but we got a lot done. It was 32 degrees out but we hardly noticed. Below are some pics, which I will update periodically as we make progress. Click on each to see a larger view.

A few notes for anyone who is considering taking on a project like this one:

  • Having someone around who actually knows what they're doing is a great thing. My buddy Cory's done a lot of carpentry and construction work, so he's The Boss. Foreman. Teacher. All that stuff. Thank goodness.
  • Seriously, don't even think about picking all the stuff out yourself and trying to haul it home in your truck or car. For this project we went to Home Depot for the materials (due to some reasonable prices and a very attractive zero-payments/interest-for-a-year financing deal). We went to the pro desk, handed over the plans and the parts list, along with $59.00 for site delivery, which was done on a semi truck with a big forklift. This was definitely more than worth the cost. The pro desk helped tweak things, checked the plans and corrected a couple assumptions I'd made, and generally made it a better experience (so far, anyhow - heh).
  • Speaking of plans, is a great place to go and spend a small amount of money for a quality, detailed building plan. I spent $15 with them and it would have been worth it even if I didn't use the plans at all - The building information in there was great and worth the price alone. Of course, we are using their plans for our structure (which is a 12x16-foot gable-roof shed).

Day one: Floor framing

Cory pretty much leveled the site the day before with a shovel, a rake and the 4-wheeler. So today we put together the framed floor. It's in two sections, which were later "wrapped" with a second layer of treated 2x's:

The site is ready to go, and the floor sections are laid out in the general area:

On the piers, it starts to look more substantial - like you got something done. In the last picture Cory and Diogi survey the work we did.

More to come when it gets done. :)

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Random Stuff
Friday, December 29, 2006 11:52:32 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)

Joel Spolsky points to a blog entry by Dmitri Zimine that does a good job pointing out the problem with interruptions when a software developer or team needs to be heads-down on a project. The posts are more than a month old, but they're still just as relevant. As an agile development team manager, I know a significant part of my job is to provide a layer of abstraction between the dev staff and everything else in the world. Interruptions and distractions have a compounding, maybe even exponential delay effect on major software projects - a half-day interruption can result in several days of lost productivity (especially if the half day is scattered an hour or half-hour at a time over a couple days, for example).

I've often wrestled with trying to strike a balance between what needs to get done on some project and the rest of the needs (and wants) that are out there. Ultimately, here is what I have come up with:

  1. Bugs that impact real customers simply have to be fixed. Bugs happen, and so fixing happens. How important and impactful the bug is determines the priority of the effort and whether or not (and when) to interrupt the programmers.
  2. It's my job to put myself in the communication loop, as a filter. I have fallen down on the job a bit in that regard recently, partly because of my work travel schedule. I need to re-insert myself to enable the development staff do their jobs even better.
  3. It seems obvious but it's worth saying: You cannot make everyone happy all the time, and you should never try to do so. All you'll get is disappointment, and that's not a worthy goal.
  4. Nothing is ever as big a deal as it seems. Everyone has their own priorities, and it's human nature for people to make their own priorities seem highest. But that's not the way it really works. See Number 2, above, for a solution.
  5. Focused developer and QA people are happy. Distracted ones are grumpy, much less productive and complain a lot. In other words, there is a domino effect. Professionals expect their managers to help them do their jobs well, and that's a reasonable expectation. My job is to hire good people, make sure they have what they need, and then let them do what they do best.

I truly enjoy working with my team in an agile world. It's always a fight to strike that perfect balance, and since true perfection is impossible, it's always a moving target. But a good manager will stay on top of that target, anticipate problems, adjust to the environment, and head those pesky issues off at the pass whenever possible.

For the record, I'm about as far from an optimal agile dev team manager as one could find. I am learning something new every day, much of it OTJ style, and there are other people where I work that are quite literally pros in the agile management field. For all I know, they may have something to say that contradicts what I've espoused. Should be interesting.

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Friday, December 29, 2006 10:44:11 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)