# Thursday, March 16, 2006

Early this week my beloved iPod (a 3G 20Gb) died horribly, in a won’t boot and the diagnostics crash kinda way.  Great sadness.  I hadn’t been using it as much lately, largely due to how rediculously the battery life was SUCKING.  But with it gone, I was really missing it, particularly the Audible support, which I use in my car all the time. 

The result:  a quick trip to Costco (home of all things good) last night and a shiny new black iPod Photo 30Gb.  Gotta love Apple.  The packaging is even sleeker and sexier than before, and you can’t beat their out of box experience.  The documentation that comes in the box basically says “install iTunes, plug in the iPod and everything just works”, and that’s pretty much how it went.  Took over an hour to get my 11Gb+ of content downloaded, but I love the fact that the USB interface will charge them now.  I was a little bummed that you don’t get the wall-plug-to-iPod-cable charger any more, although I’m sure my old firewire one still works. 

The screen is truly amazing.  I scoffed at the thought of trying to watch videos on such a tiny screen, but it really is that good.   Since I don’t get cable, the fact that you can get the Daily Show on iTunes is pretty dang cool, since that’s about the only thing that makes me want cable. 

Sadness gone.

I really have to hand it to Apple (once again).  I’m amazed that so few other companies seem to “get it” the way they do.

Thursday, March 16, 2006 1:01:54 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

I was glued to my couch this morning trying to finish Charlie Huston’s Six Bad Things : A Novel.  It’s quite a ride, and the last 50 pages or so really go like gang-busters.  It’s a sequel to the equally frenetic Caught Stealing : A Novel.  On the surface they seem like just faced pace, hard boiled crime fiction (possibly more violent than most) but having now finished both books I think that there’s deeper meaning at work. 

<potential spoilers>

I think these novels are really about how easy it is for an average guy to turn to a life of violence and crime.  The main character keeps getting caught up in progressively stranger circumstances, and to protect first himself and then his parents he sinks deeper and deeper into this plot of drugs and casual violence.  He starts thinking of himself as a violent individual, but it doesn’t happen all at once.  Each time he finds his back to the wall he finds it a little bit easier to take the violent way out, until in the end he finds himself killing without remorse.

</potential spoilers>

So, if you like crime fiction, these are definitely worth checking out.  There is supposed to be a third book in the series coming out later this year, and given how the second one ended I’ll be interested to see what happens next.

Thursday, March 16, 2006 12:52:31 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I’m most of the way through Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, and a couple of things really strike me about the book.  This is the first time I’ve read Kerouac, so I can’t compare it to his other works (although I’m interested to read On the Road now) but having just finished a biography about him during the period he’s writing about, the whole book is really just lightly fictionalized auto-biography.  That makes for interesting reading, and Kerouac’s style is certainly entertaining. 

The thing that strikes me the most is that here were a bunch of guys who were worried that the combination of suburbia and television were turning Americans into anti-intellectual, under-educated drones who never went outside.  And this was FIFTY years ago!  Well, unfortunately they’ve turned out to be largely right.  TV hadn’t even been around more than a few years then, and already its effects were being acurately predicted.  Sigh.  <rant>Stop violating your minds with television, people! Go outside!</rant>

I find it interesting that the antidote that Kerouac and the other Dharma Bums suggested was essentially voluntary homelessness.  Not something that’s easy to do these days.  However, I think I now understand a lot more about one of my uncles.  He totally fits the Dharma Bum profile.  I had no idea. :-)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006 11:11:03 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Last night I finally got broadband access hooked up at my new house.  Two weeks without Internet access has been crushing me slowly, but this was the soonest I could pull everything together. 

I found out a while back that I could get Verizon’s FIOS service at my new house.  Way faster than the 768Kb DSL connection I had before.  I went round and round about how to set up networking/phone/etc. at the new place.  I considered cable modems, VoIP phone, etc.  I didn’t really want a cable modem, since I don’t watch TV, and Comcast really tries hard (relentlessly?) to make you watch TV once they get a foot in the door.  I considered DSL again, but you can’t get DSL without local phone service, and I didn’t really want that either.  FIOS works out perfectly.  It’s fiber direct to the home, and you can get (right now) 5Mb down and 2Mb up for $35/month.  Perfect.  I don’t have a landline, since I already pay for cell phones, and FIOS carries no local phone requirement, although if you use Verizon as your local phone service, they route your phone over the fiber too, at no additional charge.  If you really feel you need it, FIOS is also capable of 15Mb/2Mb for only $10/month more. 

Once that was decided, it was still a lengthy process.  Turns out that FIOS requires a little box (the Optical Network Terminal) to be installed on the outside of your house.  This (for me) required getting approval from the HOA, and for that I had to wait until we closed before even submitting the application.  That took a few days to process, and by then the earliest time I could schedule Verizon for was over a week out.  Sigh.  Being a utility, Verizon gives you a nice tight arrival window for the technicians between 8 AM and 5 PM.  Thanks.  So I worked at home all day waiting for them to show up.  They finally arrived at 4:45.  Good thing I waited. :-(  Once they got there though, I was very impressed.  They only took about an hour, which included installing the ONT on the outside of the house, installing a battery backup for said device inside my garage, and running CAT5 from the ONT through the crawlspace and into the room where I have my PC set up.  The install ends in a very tidy looking RJ-45 jack.  They even install a free (if you agree to a one year contract) wireless router and get it all configured to talk to their server (via PPPoE, I was surprised to learn). 

I tried it out last night, and it kicks the llama’s @$$, as they say.  Lightyears ahead of my DSL connection. 

If it’s available in your neighborhood, it’s totally worth checking out. 

Tuesday, March 07, 2006 10:40:24 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, February 27, 2006

Over the weekend I finished a very interesting book Poets on the Peaks by John Suiter.  It’s about a set of the famous “beat poets”, mostly Gary Snyder, Phillip Whalen, and Jack Kerouac, and time time each of them spent working as fire lookouts for the Forest Service in the North Cascades.  It’s a fascinating storey about not only the poets (whom I didn’t know very much about) but the history and geography of the North Cascades.  It’s inspired me to pick up copies of both The Gary Snyder Reader, and The Dharma Bums, which is largely about Kerouac’s time in the mountains, and hanging out with Gary and Phillip (and Allen Ginsburg).  Poets on the Peaks is accompanied by some fabulous B & W photos of the poets and the North Cascades, some of which come from archives and some taken by the author in the lat 90’s. 

The one I’m currently chewing through (it’s hard to put down) is Charlie Huston’s Six Bad Things : A Novel, which is the sequel to the hard core page-turner Caught Stealing : A Novel.  If you did action/crime writing, these are really worth checking out.  Kind of “North-Northwest” meets “Pulp Fiction”. 

Monday, February 27, 2006 10:52:52 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, February 22, 2006

We’ll be there.  Scott and I will be presenting Dirty SOAP: A Dynamic Endpoint Without ASMX - How and Why? as part of the architecture track.  We’ll be talking about some new work we’ve been doing around extending the reach of our banking application using WSDL, Xml Schema, and the wonders of .NET.

See you there.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 2:55:13 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

It was an arduous long weekend, but we are now moved into our new house.  10 years ago we bought our first house, a 1926 farmhouse with loads of character.  And bad plumbing.  And wiring.  And little insulation.  And no foundation.  All in all, an exciting place to live.  Somewhere along the line I discovered that I am totally not handy, and have absolutely no desire to become so.  And that I loathe yard work with a pure and simple hate. 

All that’s behind me now.  We’ve moved into a brand new townhome, with no yard work, lots of insulation, and all sorts of other stuff that works.  Sure, maybe it has a bit less “character”, but at this stage of the game, I’m willing to make sacrifices. 

We actually sold our old house back in December.  Full price, in cash, in less than 24 hours.  The real estate market may be slowing down someplace, but not here, apparently.  Ever since then, we’ve been renting our old house back, and waiting for construction to complete on the new one.  It was quite a thrill to pick up the keys last week. 

Oh, and if you ever need movers, All My Sons completely rocks.  The movers were incredible.  Not a scratch on anything, extremely polite and courteous, put everything exactly where we wanted it.  Totally worth it.   

Now the unpacking gets into full swing. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 2:52:23 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Doing some WCF training this week, and the current presenter is talking about how to embrace interoperability in the world of ASMX 2.0, WSE 3, and WCF.  One of the principles he urges us to embrace is KISS.  Keep Interoperable Schemas Simple. 

I love it.  I want T-shirts. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2006 9:23:50 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 

I'm doing some WCF (Indigo) training this week, and one of the hands on labs went through an example of a federated trust scenario, with two STS's involved in the process.  I've got to say, I'm really impressed with how easy it was.  Granted, the configuration is pretty hairy, but it's just that, configuration.  You can set up a whole federated trust system using config files.  And it worked.  Not too shabby.  I would never have contemplated attempting something like that in WSE 2, although I think in WSE 3 it's supposed to be a bit easier. 

One thing to note, if you want to do federated trust, is that the WCF team is not shipping an STS.  Presumably for liability reasons, but that's anyone's guess.  They are, however, providing some very complete samples, which could be fairly quickly adapted for use inside one's organization.  There's also a good example STS for WSE 3 up on gotdotnet as of a few weeks ago. 

Overall, my impression is that security in WCF is very thought out, and WAY easier to bend to your will than ever before.  Check it out.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006 9:15:28 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Sunday, February 05, 2006
I've been a fan- and user of Plaxo for some time, but hadn't been using it as much since switching to Thunderbird for all my email at home.  Then they came out with Thunderbird support, but not for 1.5, which is (of course) what I was using.  Now everyone has caught up, and Plaxo supports Thunderbird 1.5.  Oh, happy day!  I'm once again a regular user, and love it.  It's so nice to have my contacts synchronized across all the different machines I use on a daily basis. 

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Sunday, February 05, 2006 9:09:31 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  |