Friday, September 30, 2005

Round peg, square hole

So this is an example of my wife's problem solving skills. She doesn't mess around - she follows the cram it in philosophy.

--Ben

A hand-held kiosk

http://www.textually.org/textually/archives/2005/09/010091.htm

This is a simple but clever idea. And if you can people hooked on getting services from their cell phones as students, you'll have a nice market of adults one day.

And, natrually I believe in using cell phones as a computing/information platform - after all I'm blogging from my phone as I type.

--Ben

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Accident in progress

I guess, when you compare my day to this fellow's, mine wasn't so bad.

Taken on Rt. 66 @ washington blvd.

--Ben

On the difference between unlikely and impossible

Last night at 1:48am a large number of our servers either shut down or rebooted. The obvious cause? Power outage, right?

Except I knew better than that. Our servers are housed in a facility that doesn't have power problems - ever. They have multiple back up systems, heck they have a tanker truck of gas ready to be used for generators near by.

Most of the reason we pay the company to house the servers is for power (that and cooling and physical security).

So I started coming up with theories of what could bring down a whole bunch of machines (but not all...) at once. I was thinking we had some very clever hacker on our hands.

Finally, on a whim I asked someone at the data center - "I know this sounds crazy, but did you guys loose power at 1:45am this morning?" "Oh yeah" he responded, "we did."

And just like that, something I thought impossible (or very unlikely) just happend.

And how did they notify us of the problem? Via e-mail of course. Which was never delivered because the server didn't come back up after losing power. ARGH.

I guess the real take away is that you should have a catchall protocol for when the unthinkable happens. Simply saying the unthinkable won't happen, is well, a bad idea.

--Ben

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Married to a CSI

Today we had a false alarm at the house. All looked pretty kosher except for some suspicious hand prints.

Enter my wife, the CSI.

Using advanced crime scene techniques (pen and tape) she concluded that the hand prints were on the *inside* of the window, not the outside.

When I told her how surprised I was that there was a hand print on the window she explained to me that she usually puts her hands there to push up the window. Oh.

Oh well, now the tricky part is to get ADT to pay the false alarm charge.

--Ben

Zell - some thoughts

So I'm only 3 tapes into the Zell Miller book but I already feel compelled to add my 2 cents in

Lets see, far he's covered:

(1) the Democratic party is going to share the same fate as the Wigs (the who? Exactly!). He doesn't provide proof yet, as he's trying to get attention at this point.

(2) He has an interesting childhood and background. He comes across as a swell guy.

(3) He advocates common-sense government. This I totally agree - a lot of what people want isn't right or left, it's just sensible. We should be focusing on the sensible stuff.

(4) Special interest groups are evil and run both parties. No complaint there, I don't think.

(5) Taxes. Basically, he's trying to convince us that Democrats have a history of cutting taxes and we should be proud to do so.

So far, only (5) has raised my blood pressure. I think he misses the point. Our problem in this country with taxes isn't that we have too many or two few. The problem is that we have too much waste.

The Republicans say: any dollar that goes to the government is wasted, so save your money. The Democrats say: we all want services and so we need taxes to pay for them.

Seems to me, if we could reduce the waste of money in this country two key things would happen: (a) the money we do have would go further and (b) people wouldn't mind paying taxes (as much) because they would know that their money was being put to good use - perhaps even by themselves.

So, if I were running for office today my message would be: cut waste, everthing else can wait.

Of course, 30 years from now I'll probably look back at that statement and think it's naive drivel, but oh well.

--Ben

New Dry Cleaner

After years of taking our stuff to one dry cleaner, they closed down. As a result, I'm shopping for a new dry cleaner.

I think I may have found one.

They need to (1) take some sort of coupon and (2) allow me to bring in a large laundry basket full of clothes at one time (without giving me a dirty look). So, Adams Square dry cleaner passed those tests.

One point of clarification: the purpose of the coupon is not to save money. The goal of the coupon is to have one more husband task I can fail (or succeed?) at. Fun, eh?

--Ben

Don't tell mom....

Shhh, don't tell my Mom that we ate dinner in front of the TV yesterday. Such behavior was pretty much off limits growing up.

For the record, I did it but still felt guilty. What Jewish mother wouldn't be proud of that?

--Ben

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Delivery Boy

That's me. And it's a fairly odd and valuable delivery - a Torah. I need to drop it off so that it can be repaired by a pro.

Torahs are tricky - even a small flaw, such as a single broken letter, can leave it unkosher and therefore not usable. It does make you appreciate how exacting Jews have been for the last 2000ish years.

If all goes well, in a few months this Torah will be kosher again and be put to good use.

--Ben

Quick HOWTO: Linux Software RAID

Quick HOWTO: Linux Software RAID

I had to setup linux software raid today on a box. My first time doing such a task. I found the above set of steps to be really helpful in figuring it all out.

Software raid is tricky on linux, not because there's no info around on it, but becaues there's so much out of date information. For example, I would have no problem finding a ATA raid howto from April 26th, 2002.

In the end, the setup was easy and Fedora did all the really tricky work.

Me in South Park form


Me in South Park form
Originally uploaded by benjisimon.
So this is me as a South Park character. I wonder what Shira's would look like?

Build your own today here.

Abstractions considered harmful?

Abstractions considered harmful? | Lambda the Ultimate

This is a useful thread to address the all too common question of: "Don't abstractions make it harder to debug code?" In other words, with lots of layers, doesn't it make it more confusing to follow code. Or, "isn't it annoying to have to look in 15 different classes for a problem instead of 2 or 3 bigger ones?"

Naturally, I tend to be in the camp that says no to the above questions. The link above gives some good explinations why.

I think one quote that summarizes it well is below:

In fact, if you're debugging, you want to be able to abstract away all of the trustworthy code. You know there aren't bugs there. You want to be able to tell your debugging tools that you trust that code to obey certain contracts or types, and be done with it. Now you can focus on the untrustworthy, buggy code.

Church of the Customer: A different type of Apple evangelist

Church of the Customer: A different type of Apple evangelist

Lets say you release an unauthorized copy of your work on the Internet. Do you think Sony would be happy? Do you think Sony would "give me money to make songs that are already out there?"

The answer, in the above article, certainly surprised me.

Monday, September 26, 2005

g4u - Harddisk Image Cloning for PCs

g4u - Harddisk Image Cloning for PCs

Rather than performing 3 installs on our new servers, I thought I would try the trick of making a single install image and then deploying it multiple times. G4U, as mentioned above, did a great job of this (and is free!).

The only drawback? It was so slooooooooooow. But still, I could kick off the process and come in the next day to find a fully completed (and configured) install.

Another option for this sort of thing, besides G4U is PartImage. I may give that tool a try next time, though I can't imagine it'll be as easy to use as G4U was.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Road Trip Picknic

We had a fun road trip picnic on our way back from Rochester. Of course we had it in a wegmans parking lot, where else would one stop?

Had a fun time in Rochester and the trip back so far seems smooth.

--Ben

Morse to MIDI ringtone generator

http://www.braintank.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/midi/morse2mid.php

Yet another reason to learn morse code. I'm sure my wife could make me some very meaningful/suggestive ringtones.

--Ben

My Politics...

I just took this politics test. Here's my score:

You are a

Social Liberal
(81% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(60% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Democrat




Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

I can't wait to look back on this in 20 years and laugh.

Midnight Services

We are coming up on the Jewish New year. As such, we start a period of repentence. To get things kicked off, we do the first service at midnight - as if to say that we don't even want to wait till the morning to say the prayers.

It's kinda like opening your birthdat presents at midnight instead of waiting till the next day. Except the presents are prayers pleading with G-d.

I went with my dad and we had a good time.

--Ben

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Sell A Pixel - or how to pay for college

http://www.allbusiness.com/blog/JustForSmallBusiness/3357/003425.html?RSS=3357

Now why didn't I think about doing this to pay for my college tuition?

--Ben

Friday, September 23, 2005

What the?

This is a Niagra Falls information booth. Fine - that's not a crazy idea. There's a lot to do in Niagra Falls so an info booth makes sense.

The odd part? We are literally 3 1/2 hours away from the Falls and currently in a small town in Pennsylvania.

That's just strange. But they must be doing something right, the booth has been here for decades.

--Ben

Pre-Rita gas prices

For the record, we paid $3.189 per gallon for gas today. I wonder what it will be 24-48hrs from now?

--Ben

Clear instructions

I just love how the GPS always gives you such clear and intelligable instructions.

--Ben

Thursday, September 22, 2005

When stereotypes don't lie

Nothing like watching a group of men walking down the street in lader-hosen carrying...beer of course.

--Ben

Forest of Links: Portable Linux on my Thumbdrive.

Forest of Links: Portable Linux on my Thumbdrive.

Yet another project I would love to have time to play with. Argh. Need to work on both time travel and cloning. Or maybe time traveling clones.

Presentation Zen

Presentation Zen

Next time you have a presentation to give -- why not present it as a top 10 list, or maybe using just very, very, very large type?

At least your presentation won't be ignored...

The Daily Show -- The Roberts Hearing

You've got to spend a few minutes and watch the clip marked TDS on the Roberts Hearing found here...it's just too hilarious.

My favorite quote:

Tom Coburn also takes advantage of his few minutes with John Roberts but saying that his "heart aches for less divisiveness... less polarization... less finger-pointing... less bitterness... less partisanship" (you're supposed to throw in dramatic sniffles where the ellipses are). Bravo, Coburn. The same Coburn that said the gay community "is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today." The same Coburn that said, "I favor the death penalty for abortionists." Less bitter indeed. Oh, and if you tuned in to C-SPAN before Coburn got to speak, there was one shot that showed him doing a crossword puzzle under his desk. Nice one.

Thanks to Beamer for mentioning this clip and to these blogs for covering the story.

Spiderman 2 and all the snacks you can eat!

What a deal!

I gave platelets and plasma this morning. All told it took about two and a half hours. But this time was much less painful than last.

And the perks were great! Watched most of spiderman 2, got covered in warmed-up blankets, had hot water bags around me and got all the snacks I could eat. Elizabeth Arden (sp?) has nothing on this place.

As for spiderman 2, I wasn't super impressed. The special effects were very cool. And I did find the representation of Dr. Ocotopus to be really well done. But in the end, I just didn't enjoy the schmaltzy storyline. I give it a 6/10 for trying.

--Ben

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's All About Revenue : 30 Days, $1000, And No Help

It's All About Revenue : 30 Days, $1000, And No Help - Part 2 - ( Small Business Blog Center )

An interesting business success story. Nothing earth shattering here, just lots of hard work. But still, inspirational stuff.

Twinsparc � UPDATED - HTMLstamps

Twinsparc � UPDATED - HTMLstamps

This is an interesting design tool. However, what caught my eye was the use of the instructional video. In just a few minutes of video you can totally get what the point of this software is and how you would use it. Simply describing it in text or as screen shots just isn't the same.

Small Business Trends: On Wal-Mart, Small Businesses and Business Ecosystems

Small Business Trends: On Wal-Mart, Small Businesses and Business Ecosystems

Typically you hear about how Wal-Mart runs small businesses out of town. Here's another view -- where small business actually benefit from Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Google Secure Access Installer

Google Secure Access Installer

Yet another example of Google project which I don't get yet. It's probably a great idea...but I just don't see how the strategy fits. Oh well, nobody asked me.

Hanukkah in September

Today we got our shipment of 3 servers we just ordered. We bought them from direct from cybertron, though we learned about them from tiger direct.

Let me take a moment and just say how impressed I am with the folks at cybertron. Why?

1) They know their stuff. I asked them about picky details and they had instant answers. How many sticks of RAM come with the machine? 2. Very impressive considering I would have usually expected to be bounced from a sales guy to a technical guy (or gal) and back again.

2) They know their competitors stuff. I was able to provide my sales guy with tiger direct product IDs and he instantly pulled up what I was talking about. None of this - it's not my derpartment crap.

3) They offered to test my servers with the OS I want to use, not they want to test with. This is just amazing. The guy asked me what OS I wanted to use (Fedora Linux). He then checked in their product database to see if the raid card I was ordering worked with this version of Linux. He then told me he didn't know, but that he would have his engineers test it for me and let me know. In other words, they did the work of testing the box and making sure it will work for me. That's a huge savings for me. I'm just amazed that they didn't tell me that they only test 3 or 4 OS's and that if mine wasn't in the list, too bad.

And keep in mind we aren't talking mega-expensive servers here. Two of them were $600.00 a piece.

So I'm a happy camper and can recommend Cybertron with pride. If you need servers check out: http://www.cybertronpc.com.

Tomorrow I get to actually play with them.

--Ben

Monday, September 19, 2005

Just add pressure

So how's this for a life lesson...

I'm trying to water my lawn in the hopes of turning it from light brown to geen'ish. But, my sprinkler setup wasn't quite working - the sprinkler would get "stuck" and innevitably, I'd water my driveway for 20 minutes.

I talked it over with Mike at work - his suggestion, more water pressure.

So, the life lesson? When in doubt add pressure.

Now I need the life lesson for when adding too much pressure bursts a pipe...

--Ben

Typetester – Compare fonts for the screen

Typetester – Compare fonts for the screen

This is a useful tool for comparing the look of various type styles online.

Thanks to Webgraphics for the pointer.

Bias - concluded

So I finished listening to Bias, by Bernard Goldberg. I reviewed it earlier in my blog and said that I was impressed. Well, I still am.

The bottom line is that Goldberg makes a compelling case for the existance of bias. More importantly, he demonstrates that it hurts the news media and their viewers. And it is not just annoying to a class of their viewers, but it leaves those who do agree with the media ignorant to important views and issues.

This should be required reading for all - the lessons and examples are very valuable.

--Ben

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Spa day...

For my lawn, that is.

My lawn is getting its fall special treatment. The package includes: mowing, dethatching, fertalizing, seading and lots of water. 2 times a day for three weeks worth of water.

Will ot end up lush and green? No, but at least I can try.

--Ben

Friday, September 16, 2005

OnStar and smart marketing

http://exacttarget.typepad.com/chrisbaggott/2005/09/smart_marketing.html

Check out the above article. It talks about how OnStar is now going to send e-mail reminders of when an owner's vehicle needs maintenance, along with stats about the vehicle.

This is great marketing. It's just like what Kraft did w/ their recipes as podcasts. They are providing a useful service to their customers which indirectly causes sales.

You are reminded your brakes need work - you go to a GM dealer to get them fixed. You decide you want Mac and Cheese for dinner, so you buy a Kraft product.

Provide useful data to your customers, they'll do the rest.

--Ben

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Podcasting....

So, I'm finally taking the leap into the world of Podcasting. I'm loading up Shira's MP3 player with various podcasts.

For those of you not in the know, Podcasting is kinda like blogging, only with audio and not web pages. If you think of this blog as my own newspaper, then a podcaster has his own radio station.

There are lots of podcasts out there, so I'm a bit confused as to where to start.

So I just visited http://www.podcastalley.com - it will point you to a podcast client (the physical radio in my analogy above) and list the top 50 podcasts for the month.

Oh, and yes, in case you were wondering the answer is yes. Yes, can download podcast porn.

--Ben

Searching out business blogs

In my quest to learn more about business, I decided to dig around for some business related blogs. I found the following resources gave me plenty of leads:

Do you have a favorite business blog?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Donations...

Shira and I cleaned out her closet a few weeks ago (yes, I said her closet. It's hers, I simply rent a small area of it for my use) and had stuff to donate.

So, today I dropped it off at Goodwill.

It just so happens that I visited goodwill.org before my donation, to find out hours and such. And it turns out that Goodwill is a pretty impressive (from my perspective anyway) organization.

They don't just talk about helping the homeless and poor they do something about it!

So donate something today.

--Ben

Google Blog Search

Google Blog Search

I don't get it. What does blogsearch offer that regular google search doesn't? I guess this is just another example of google producing, while we in the public just sit back and wonder.

TV Show Idea

Maybe it was the idea of Nerd TV, or maybe it was just me watching too much G4 TV, but somehow I came up with the idea for a new televison show. Allow me to share...

We in the programming world already have the concept of cookbooks, why then don't we have our own cooking show? And that's what I'm suggesting, a programming cooking show.

You could imagine that you would have a regular host who would be given a particular programming or development task. He would then work with an expert in the field to solve the particular problem. And just in the case of a cooking show, you would show the interesting parts (maybe the design session, maybe some iterative development, or even testing), and skip past the boring stuff. It could turn into a show where craft of programming is discussed and shown, and not simply an interview about some now very rich or poor geek.

I could imagine that the assignments could cut across many areas of the development world. Samples might include: make a web forum board, develop a program for an embedded system, customize eclipse, get rid of red-eye from a photograph, run a design session for a very large project.

The better metaphor for this show may be one of those home-improvement howto (This Old Project, maybe?)

Who would watch? Well, geeks and programmers, of course. But I could imagine that you could pick certain well known episodes to cover lighter topics such as excel macros, or tweaking MS-word that more of the general public would follow. Also, if done right, it could almost take on a car-talk audience, which may just watch to see the banter and may not even be interested in the details of the subject.

So that's the idea. Would you actually watch it? What would you change about it to make it a better show?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It Lives!

Shira's setting up the new GPS (Garmin iQue M5).

Where should we take our maiden voyage with it?

--Ben

Free Audio Books

LibriVox

Here's a new source I just learned about for audio books. What's different about these guys? They are an army of volunteers who simply read books aloud. Low tech, but effective.

Only in a Red State

I'm not sure if you can tell what is dangling from the license plate area of this truck. Any guesses?

I need to get a set for the Rocket

Update: Here's a a clearer example of what we were looking at. Click on the image to get yours today!

--Ben

Monday, September 12, 2005

Mobido

http://www.mobido.com/

A very interesting concept/site. I look forward to playing with it.

Have you ever played with this site, or one like it?

--Ben

AtomFilms - Star Wars: Battle of Hoth

AtomFilms - Star Wars: Battle of Hoth

If you are even remotely a star wars fan, then you must watch this movie. Must I say. Must.

The New GPS

This is as close as I'm going to get to our new GPS. That is, until the wife unpacks it, sets it up and learns all about it.

I may have the golden opportunity to be in charge of disposing of the packing materials. Though one can only hope.

--Ben

How low can you go?

You know you've hit a low point in the age of your hardware when you need to cool the machine using an ordinary house fan.

Yikes, time for a new computer or two.

--Ben

Visit from the Bro

David was in town for the Bears game (sorry they lost Dave) and so I got a chance to hang a bit with him.

If he looks mostly asleep in this picture it's because he is. This was take really early this morning as he had an early flight to catch.

As usual, it was great seeing him.

--Ben

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Some Beach

Took a walk on the OC beach this morning. It was just perfect. The water was warm, the breeze was cool and the sun was shining.

--Ben

B&S @ O.C.

Our very generous neighbors let us borrow their beach house for the weekend in Ocean City. Wow, what a treat.

--Ben

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