Saturday, 21 May 2005

Obscure trivia time... Let's see if anyone knows what this means (see image):

Z

I don't expect anyone (except for maybe two people) to know what it means when it's stuck on the phone (it's an inside kinda thing), but surely someone (besides those two) must know what the figure means when it's used for it's real purpose...



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Random Stuff
Saturday, 21 May 2005 13:43:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Ok, this is completely random, I know, but people need to know about this stuff, and I am willing to provide a little free advertising when I see something worthwhile.

If you own a cat (my cat saga is long and complicated), you know all about the woes of litter boxes, scooping, smell, smell, smell and - well - smell.

Tired of crappy cat litter products (forgive the pun), I spent a few extra bucks on a four-pound bag of Fresh Step Crystals cat litter a few weeks ago, hoping to find something that would be easier to deal with in terms of cleaning and - yes - the smell.

This stuff is incredible (well, on the kitty-litter scale that is). I will never buy clay cat litter again. Ever.

Between the fact that it locks in the cat box odors like nothing else, and the fact that this four-pound bag can last up to a month (I didn't believe it at first, but wow...), I am completely sold. Clay doesn't compare.

What else is great about it?

  • No dust. Zero. Nada.
  • No smell. Seriously, this is the most incredible part.
  • A lot less litter scattered out of the box and onto the floor.
  • Easy to scoop - forget that super-clumping clay litter stuff, this is the better way to go.

Read about it here. Buy it anywhere cat crap products are sold.

By the way - my clean-freak, obsessive-compulsive cat was a little weirded out by the new litter at first, so I mixed a little clay in with it, and she took to it right away. Just a hint in case your cat freaks out on the new stuff - it will get used to it after a couple visits.



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Saturday, 21 May 2005 10:06:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Indy_tabletEngadget has a great little article about an Indy 500 racing team's use of OneNote on Tablet PCs in the race pits and planning stages. It's pretty cool what they're doing with technology in auto racing these days. Go check it out.

"... Robertson said they are now recording a driver’s spoken comments about how the car is handling as a Windows Media Audio file and can do a voice overlay within a OneNote document along with a track diagram to show where the car went fast or slow. Such OneNote documents can be instant messaged to engineers back at the garages and stored for future use ...

... He said OneNote is useful in creating reports and presentations that combine computer-aided design (CAD) drawings, data from the on-board data logging systems, and engineering notes with information gathered from various sources, such as photos of necessary parts from catalogues, on the Internet."

[Read the story at Engadget]



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Office 2003 | OneNote | Tablet PC | Tech
Saturday, 21 May 2005 09:28:10 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I've had the unfortunate experience of being on two vehicle accidents in the past couple of years - both were accidents that I could not avoid in the moment, and for which the law found me not at fault, but the insurance industry says were my fault nonetheless. No tickets issued, just a couple of against-the-odds situations, two wrecked vehicles and insurance premiums that rocketed somewhere into the upper stratosphere.

The first accident involved a deer in a curve in the roadway at night, and I had to choose in a split second whether to hit the deer (with a motorcycle, mind you), or to try to go around it. I chose the latter option and ended up on the shoulder of the roadway, which would have been just fine except that (unbeknownst to me) the shoulder turned into a ditch, which is not exactly a good thing when you're on a bike. Thank goodness I had on all the right gear - helmet, gloves, armored clothing. Anyhow, the lawman on the scene said it was a no-fault accident (and tried to talk me into joining the reserves) and my insurance agent told me (dead-seriously), "You should have hit the deer." Jeez, never mind the fact that I walked away from it relatively unharmed, which would almost certainly not have happened hat I hit that deer (and for the record, I don't give a darn one way or the other whether or not Bambi was hurt or killed). The law saw it one way, but my insurance company uses a book of rules, rather than real-world common sense: My insurance rates went up, because I didn't hit the deer.

The second one involved a semi truck coming down a hill (again late at night) through some switchback curves, heading at straight at me in my lane as I was going up the hill. I swerved hard to the edge of the road to avoid being hit by the semi (I seriously though that was "it"), and somehow he (I am making a gender assumption here, please forgive me...) got back over toward his lane far enough to where the vehicles did not touch. He kept right on going and my smaller vehicle fishtailed a couple times before sliding off the road, head-on into the hillside where it flipped and rolled. It was truly crazy. Anyhow, the law came on scene, took a look around, made sure I was not drunk (I have not consumed alcohol in more than eight years so no chance of that) and said "not your fault" based on all the evidence (semi truck skid marks, etc), but the insurance company (not my agent this time, it was an adjuster) told me I probably should have hit the semi truck (What?!?!?), and again jacked up my rates.

Now, all-in-all I'd much rather pay obnoxious insurance premiums than be dead, so I guess the tradeoff is not all that bad in the big picture. But let me tell you - my rates skyrocketed and became what I would call truly outrageous.

Unfortunately, when it comes to my own personal finances, while I am quite responsible I am not one to put the pressure on and fight hard for better prices as a matter or course. I will do it in my job (where the company is the beneficiary of my efforts and it's not personal), but for some reason it's different when I am negotiating and shopping around for myself. For the record, I consider this a weakness in my own character, and I've progressively gotten better in recent years, but I still have to occasionally remind myself to look out for me in my spare time, if you will.

Anyhow, I woke up the other day pretty pissed off about my insurance bills, which is not a pleasant way to wake up, so I decided to do something about it.

Long story short (way too late, I know), I just changed insurance companies, from American Family to AIG, and on an apples-to-apples auto policy (same coverage, same accidents, etc) I cut my rate almost in half. Not only that, I was able to get lots of rate quotes and apply online, and once I had decided which company to go with, I just called them up and completed the deal (Not that I needed to, I could have closed the deal online, too, without ever having spoken to a person, but that would not have been as much fun because the helpful lady I spoke to at AIG was born the exact same day as me and was really, really nice on the phone - which does make a difference in an all-else-equal world.)

In the process I learned a few things about buying insurance:

  • You must shop around to find out what kind of deals you will get. They vary greatly from company to company.
  • Always check with your bank to see if they have a bank-sponsored insurance program, that's what I did (I bank with Wells Fargo online and just clicked through their link to get a quote at AIG). It saved me a significant amount over the insurance company's default premiums to go that route. The lady on the phone told me that was the way to go, among several other useful tidbits.
  • If you have multiple insurance products (homeowners, umbrella policy, life insurance, etc) always see if putting them under one carrier will save you money - it almost always does.
  • Ask lots of questions about specific details - towing coverage, death and dismemberment, thing like that are often double-covered if you have separate policies from work or health insurance that provide the same coverage, so don't buy the same thing twice if you don't need it - but make sure you know exactly what you have and what you are buying. If an insurance company's agents are not helpful, you should consider going elsewhere.
  • If your rates have gone up substantially at your current company because of accidents or claims, it's probably worth shopping around for a new company. It's a competitive market and just like other businesses, insurance companies know that if they jack up rates, a substantial number of their customers will pay the higher rates and never look around at options.

At any rate, I learned something in the process and thought others might, as well. All I know is that I just added a chunk of change to my monthly grocery budget by doing a small amount of research and online work, plus one phone call. It was a good investment.



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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Saturday, 21 May 2005 09:15:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 20 May 2005

Firefox_logoI'm a dual-browser kind of guy. Honestly, I use Internet Explorer most of the time, and Firefox is in my backup slot. Recently security concerns have been pretty evenly divided between the two, and I am not married to one browser or another - I just use what works best for me at the time.

The one thing that tends to keep IT administrators from deploying Firefox across their companies in many cases is the complete lack of a process and ability to patch and update the software.

Well, IT admins, worry no more. Someone's been thinking about how to help.

FrontMotion has created a MSI installer for Firefox 1.0.4 that can be deployed via Active Directory - just like any MSI installer - and a set of accompanying ADM files that you can deploy as extensions to your group policy, in order to be able to exercise the level of control necessary in a corporate environment. You can download them here.

FrontMotion's Firefox Community Edition is Firefox with the ability to lockdown settings through Active Directory.  Similar to lockdown with mozilla.cfg on one computer, you can now use our Community Edition to set settings across your organization by loading Administrative Templates. Both the firefox.adm and mozilla.adm file can be loaded at the same time.

For those who want or need to do an Active Directory deployment:

  • Download the MSI installer and save it to a network location accessible by client computers (e.g. a network share on a domain controller).
  • Create or edit a Group Policy Object (GPO). Right click on an Organizational Unit (OU) or your top level domain, then Properties.  In the Group Policy tab, click New to create a new Group Policy or Edit. (Note: If you have an existing deployment of Firefox MSI, you should Edit an existing GPO)
  • Edit the GPO and navigate to Computer Configuration -> Software Settings -> Software Installation
  • Add the new package, specify the location of the Firefox MSI on a network share. (e.g. \\server\appinstalls\firefox\firefox-x.x.x.x.msi)
  • If you are doing an upgrade, be sure to specify the older packages in the Upgrades tab in the new package's properties.

 



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IT Security | Tech
Friday, 20 May 2005 22:03:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I'm watching FOX12 News here in Portland, and they just ran a story about Podcasting. The pointed out that it's even gone commercial, and had a quick interview with a guy from Centennial Wines - http://www.centennialwines.com/ - which apparently has a podcast available (I only see one episode, but maybe I am missing something).

Anyhow, TV is pushing the message of podcasting all the way into your living room on the newscast. That's gotta mean something.



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AudioBlogging | Random Stuff | Tech
Friday, 20 May 2005 21:50:42 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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