Thursday, 15 December 2005

Such the conundrum. In my kitchen pantry I have four cans of Wolf Brand Chili. They taunt me. I stare at them every now and then an ponder the many Wolf Brand possibilities. I do this because they have been in my pantry now for, oh, a few years. I think seriously about opening one, scraping it out over a bed of Fritos, running some cheese on top and radiating it all in the Microwave. Health food at its best.

I'd actually do it, too, if I wasn't afraid I'd freakin' die. I mean, just how long is canned chili good for, anyway?

I mean, the answer must be either "a finite period of time" (undoubtedly substantially less than four years) or else it must be something along the lines of "forever." Like as in "put canned chili in your Y2K and terrorist attack supply caches."

So, in my quest for knowledge I did the most obvious thing your average 38-year-old guy would be expected to do when confronted with obscure kitchen-related trivia of such potential impact as to rise to the level of life-and-death.

I called my mom.

Her advice? "If it's not swollen or split open and as long as it doesn't hiss when you open it, it's probably fine." Hmmm... Probably?

I told her "Yeah, well I probably still won't open it."

Not that I don't believe my mom. It's just that, well, maybe I don't believe her. It's just not like her to be so non-committal. "Probably fine." Heh. Right. She's probably taking out an insurance policy on me right now. Nah, she'd never do that.

Okay, well... Time for some search engine research action, then. After Googling for a half hour and (uncharacteristically) coming up with practically nothing you'd consider useful (more proof that I'm basically just completely random), I decided to take a chance and just open the stupid thing, listen for the hissing, smell it, eyeball it, and nuke the living hell out of it before allowing it to reach my mouth.

What the hell, ya only live once. And I'm hungry.

So, if I don't ever post here again, I'm probably dead from botulism or some other nasty crap. Wish me luck.

UPDATE: Opening can... Hiissssssss... Woahhhh... Never mind, I'm not touching that stuff. Heh. I'll just go hungry.

12/15/2005 18:52:42 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 11 December 2005

I'm supposed to be on my way to Portland by now, to meet up with the youth group for a evening thing, Christmas shopping and stuff.

Supposed to be. Just one minor problem.

My truck's sitting out there in the driveway, with my laptop, camera, phone, and everything else I might possibly need tucked inside. The engine is all warmed up, the heated seats are turned on.

And the doors are all locked.

And the extra key? Yeah, let's not even go there.

To solve this problem, after failing miserably at the Magic Wire Coat Hanger Method, I brought out the smallest Yellow Pages book in the United States and looked for a local locksmith.

I'm starting to see why there are times when it's easier to live in or near the city. My first call was to a guy who, it turns out, is over in the state of Washington. Another call or two went unanswered. My next call was to a guy three-quarters of the way to the city, and he said he'd be heading my way. That's about 30 minutes away.

Days like this make me happy I have that Hemi V8 under the hood, what with the truck sitting there in the driveway at fast idle for the past hour and all.

But hey, with the PC laptop locked up in the car, at least I can be glad to have this Mac sitting on my desk in the corner over here. And I can be glad I have time to apply the gazillion software patches and updates I apparently missed since I last used it who-knows-how-long-ago.

I just hope there's enough gas left by the time they guy gets it unlocked to get me to the closest gas station.

Okay, I'm done. How's your weekend?

12/11/2005 14:21:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Philippe Cheng made a rare couple of posts on his weblog this weekend (yeah, that's a friendly little jab right there, did ya catch that one?). He's spent the last, ohhh I dunno, 20 years or so building a new Chinchilla condominium. I guess that explains the light blogging activity. Looks like the family has grown a bit during the intervening time:

     Philippe's Chinchila 'Cloning' Experiment

Heh. Sorry, couldn't resist. Philippe's a coworker and he likes to make furniture and other non-digital stuff on the weekends, which is cool. Check out his blog. He writes now and then about interesting development stuff, too.

12/11/2005 07:52:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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"They all hold signs."

Dressed in ratty clothes, one guy stood on a busy corner with a cardboard sign inscribed with an offer to give away free Linux CDs. As you can imagine, the number of takers was not all that many, nor was it a quick process. How do you think the people this man encountered acted?

It was an interesting day of observation and insight for the man, and the end if the story is - well, you should just go read it.

[via Digg]

12/11/2005 05:58:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 10 December 2005

Writely is a web-based document authoring and collaboration tool. You can create new documents or upload existing documents of popular formats (Word, Open Office, text, HTML, etc). Once you've started a document you can collaborate with others on it - even in real time, as the page will refresh to include changes made by the other person every few seconds. And it's all done in the browser, with no software or controls to install. Slick stuff.

Once you're done, you can publish your document and share it with others (email notifications are also built in), or use Writely to post the content to your blog - which is exactly how I authored this particular entry (with some minor glitches along the way, but it's a beta).

Interesting and very web-two-oh-ish. Word processing, collaboration, and it's completely deployed online. One to watch, for sure.

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12/10/2005 23:33:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I have been awfully busy lately, with lots and lots of work projects, travel for work and personal purposes, and all the rest of life on top of that. As a result, there are over a hundred interesting tidbits of info I set aside with hopes of writing here about them.

But since I know in the real world that won't ever happen, here are the 48 random things that caught my eye ad attention long enough for me to save each one - These fall mostly in the tech category:

12/10/2005 11:22:06 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Everyone knows XBOX360's are in very short supply, and the ones that are available are being swept up as soon as they hit shelves. So, it makes sense that a few web resources have appeared to help you find one.

  • - Best Buy stores in the US will be receiving fresh inventory next weekend (the 18th). This site lets you enter your ZIP code and find out how many will be arriving at a store(s) near you.
  • - Sign up for a free or premium service that will notify you when online retailers have XBOX360 consoles available to purchase.

Sounds like there will be opportunities to find one before Christmas. Rumor on Friday was that there were Costco stores with large shipments at that time in some areas.

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12/10/2005 09:07:25 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 08 December 2005

My coworker, Brent Strange, has just started a Quality Assurance (QA) blog. Brent's what I would call a QA expert (he amazes me from time to time for sure) and he does terrific quality work, so I am looking forward to what he says and thinks on it.

Here is his introductory post, and he's already started adding new content. And it's another dasBlog weblog, which is cool. Nice template, too.

This will be one to watch. Subscribed.

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Blogging | Tech
12/08/2005 20:46:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Google Transit detailGoogle has released an early version of Google Transit, a Google Maps internal mash-up that my fellow Portlanders can use to find public transportation to get from point A to Point B around the metro area. Once you search for your trip, you can compare the relative costs and time required to use public transportation or drive, and have complete instructions for each. Click here for a sample transit search from Hillsboro, Oregon to the Portland International Airport (PDX).

I mention that my fellow Portland residents can use it, because this is an early beta so (as of the time of this post) it contains information for public transit services in the Portland, Oregon metro area. But hey, it's a beta release, and Portland's a great place to try something like this. It's a large city but not huge, so it's manageable. the transit info is available electronically, and with the many bus and light rail options and all the interconnections, it's a good test bed. So those of us that live here can be very happy, and the rest of ya can learn more about Portland until your city is available. Just don't move here, heheh. Just kidding.

From the "About" page:

"Do you live in or near a city? Want to go someplace—to the airport, to dinner, to work every day—and not worry about the hassles and expense of driving and parking? Google Transit Trip Planner enables you to enter the specifics of your trip—where you're starting, where you're ending up, what time of day you'd like to leave and/or arrive—then uses all available public transportation schedules and information to plot out the most efficient possible step-by-step itinerary. You can even compare the cost of your trip with the cost of driving the same route!

"At the moment we're only offering this service for the Portland, Oregon metro area, but we plan to expand to cities throughout the United States and around the world."

One problem with the interface when I used it - no scroll bars. The directions pane is cut off at the bottom of the browser window and there's no way to scroll down to see more. The data is there, but it's not displayed. But I am sure they'll work on it. After all, it's a beta.

     google transit page

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12/08/2005 05:10:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 06 December 2005

I've written before about FrontMotion's Firefox MSI installers and their Active Directory ADM policy templates, but with the recent release of Firefox v1.5 and the resultant updating of the installers by FrontMotion, I figured it's worth another mention. In a security-conscious IT environment, we all know how difficult it can be to exercise the necessary level of control over programs that are used to access the Internet - and the web browser is number one or two on the list of possible problem Internet apps (along with email programs). So being proactive whenever the tools are available to us is quite important.

Luckily, FrontMotion distributes MSI (Microsoft Installer) versions of the Firefox web browser for people to use (free of charge at this time) and there are two editions of the installers available. FrontMotion's Firefox Community Edition - which is the one that includes the Active Directory integration for centralized management and control - is slated to be updated shortly, and their stand-alone MSIs (which are not AD-integrated) have already been updated to incorporate Firefox v1.5.

The features of the Firefox Community Edition should be of interest to companies that centrally manage software for IT and security purposes, and the package allows you to upgrade non-MSI installations as well as those from other organizations. Features of the community edition include:

  • Active Directory deployable and upgradeable.
  • Active Directory management through Administrative Templates (*.adm).
  • Desktop Icon similar to IE.
  • Shell integration similar to IE.
  • Set Default browser
  • Macromedia Flash plug-in preinstalled
  • Detect and upgrades non-MSI installs.
  • Can upgrade 3rd party MSI's from MIT,, and ZettaServe.
  • Able to properly perform uninstalls and restores system associations

You can subscribe to the FrontMotion mailing list for occcasional announcements about updates at: I don't see a blog or RSS feed, but we can hope.

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IT Security | Tech
12/06/2005 02:32:28 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 05 December 2005

Kathy Sierra does her typically terrific job of distilling the Web 2.0 hype down to something meaningful in a post where she says:

"If I were a VC, the 'elevator pitch' I'd ask for would be simply: 'Tell me how this thing helps the user kick ass?' If you can't answer that, don't bother launching your power point."

Check the full post (with trademark cartoons and buzzword bingo) and find out why "engaging" and "inspiring" are what today's techies should be thinking (and talking) about.

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12/05/2005 20:33:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Always wondered who that dude was talking to...

"The Worst Job Ever"
(Windows Media video - contains strong language, etc etc)

12/05/2005 19:04:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 04 December 2005

Air Combat USA planesIt takes a really gullible type to fall for one of my secret plans. Either that or someone who trusts me implicitly, misguided as that may be.

Along those lines, I didn't tell my friend David where we were going or what we were doing this weekend, just that I'd pick him up on Friday, that he should bring enough clothes for a couple days, and I'd have him back to his ship (he's in the U.S. Navy) in time for duty early Monday morning.

We try to do something crazy and insane once a year or so, and we were a bit overdue for this trip. I've actually been planning it for more than a year, at least in part. Without going into all the details, what matters the most if that Dave knew nothing of what we were doing on our trip (not even that we were flying to California) until we got to the location for each planned activity.

The plan included roller coasters, jousting dinner, visiting David's family in the area, and other fun stuff. But the real big event of the trip was on Sunday at the end of our stay in Orange County.

Dave and Greg at Air Combat USA (before Dave puked)On Sunday afternoon, to end the Secret Plan trip, we went to Air Combat USA in Fullerton, California. There we suited up, were briefed by former military pilots, and climbed into two high-performance military training aircraft, which we flew with the instructors for about an hour in some training maneuvers and six real-live dogfights. Gunsights, smoke and all. It was - to say the least - a blast. I can now say I know what it feels like to fly 5.5-G turns and that I did just that. Wow.

It's not cheap, for sure, but if it's something you've ever wanted to do, check our Air Combat USA on the web - - and give it a try.

Just be sure to keep the yak-bag handy. Dave's new call-sign is "Ralph," if that tells ya anything.

Above is a pic of Dave and I in front of one of the planes before we took off. Good thing we took the pic before we left - no stains on Dave's flight suit. Heh.

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12/04/2005 17:34:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 02 December 2005

Blackberry 8700 PhoneMy Blackberry 7290 started to crap out on me a couple weeks ago (in the middle of a call the audio for the microphone circuit started just randomly dropping out on both Bluetooth and internal mic calls), so the timing was right to work with a test of the new Blackberry 8700. I've been using it for a few days now, and while this will not be a complete review (maybe later), here are a few thoughts about the new BB Phone.

First of all, this is by far the best-designed Blackberry device yet. Seriously. I have lots of kudos and only one (somewhat) real complaint for the 8700.

And in classic geek-review style, let's start with the bad stuff first, get it out of the way, and move on to a few positives.

The Not-So-Good (note - edited after a few days of use):

  • Battery life so far - compared to the 7290, the battery life is nowhere near as good. Before anyone starts off telling me the display is brighter, etc etc etc, understand that (as I have described before), the Blackberry is a business tool, and long battery life has been something I've always been able to count on. I will cycle the battery top to bottom a few times and see if it helps, but my initial observation is that the battery life is somewhat disappointing. (-1)  EDIT: Since my initial observations, and now that I have run the battery down and fully charged it a few times, battery life seems better. It's not what it was on the 7290, but it is also much better than the intial couple of charges yielded. It's in the ballpark of reasonable to good now. (+-0)
  • I could say no camera (okay, I said it) and no dial-by-voice (hmmm), but those are just would-be-very-nice-to-have options (one of which they really should build, and the other of which could be a software update) (-0.5)

The Good (and there's so much of it):

  • The handheld's display is excellent - bright, sharp and bold (+1)
  • FAST FAST FAST - Gone are the lags associated with things like "Delete all prior" and any of a bunch of Blackberry functions that were sluggish on previous models. No more Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer video animation lag on this one (by the way, I watched that classic show again the other night - is it just me or is it painful to watch by today's standards?) (+2)
  • Finally some ring tones I can enjoy! No more electronic football sounds from the 80's - It's grown up, finally! (+1)
  • Auto-complete of addresses in email creation - you have to experience this to understand how great it is. Create a new email, and you have the TO and CC fields in the header of the new email, so you just start typing a name, and you're presented with a list of matching names from your address book, much like Outlook or Thunderbird or other desktop mail clients do. On top of that, if you add someone to the TO or CC field and fill in the first recipient, the device automagically insets a new, empty matching TO or CC field so you can just start typing the next recipient name. Completely gone (yay!) are the days of Scroll, click, add-TO, scroll for a name, click, select, blah blah. Just type and hit enter and you're done. Sweet. (+2)
  • The display themes are terrific, and the Cingular theme on the device is very, very good. (+1)
  • No more "make sure your ear lines up exactly with this pin-head sized hole and then make sure it doesn't move, or you won't be able to hear the person you're talking to" problems. Well, okay, I am exagerrating a little, but if you've used the 7200-series BB phones you know what I mean. And I hate earbuds. I also don't like the Bluetooth Star Trek Fan Boy headsets, either. I use Bluetooth with the phone in my truck, which has a Bluetooth speakerphone system built into the audio system. But now the 8700 gets the handset earpiece just right - loud, clear and works great. (+2)
  • Speakerphone - ah hah!! (+1)
  • Programmable quick-button - By default it opens the Profiles screen, but you can point it at other stuff
  • Hand-up and Dial buttons - about time

There's a whole bunch of other new and improved features, but since I have to leave town now for a few days, it will have to wait to write about those. A few days of carrying the thing will give me more opportunity to get to know the device.

Anyone else using one? If so, what do you think?

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Mobile | Tech
12/02/2005 07:04:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 01 December 2005

The Music Genome Project created a web application and site called Pandora that lets you discover music in a very cool new way. Niiiiice!

Enter the name of an artist, and it creates a "station" of similar, complimentary music based on the original selection. I'm a huge James Taylor fan, and I entered his name, and sure enough, it create a station that had a bunch more music I liked a lot.

This one's going to get some serious Greg playtime. Pun intended. Oh, and the Pandora Blog is here.



From the Pandora web site:

Ever since we started the Music Genome Project, our friends would ask:

Can you help me discover more music that I'll like?

Those questions often evolved into great conversations. Each friend told us their favorite artists and songs, explored the music we suggested, gave us feedback, and we in turn made new suggestions. Everybody started joking that we were now their personal DJs.

We created Pandora so that we can have that same kind of conversation with you.

12/01/2005 20:10:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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