Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Friday, December 29, 2006

Passwords & USB Keys

I can't believe you guys are talking about keyboard shortcuts. That's like elementry school. Or maybe I've just been doing this too long.

I hate passwords. Every website I go to wants me to register, create a user name and a password. So I had an idea.

How about a USB key that keeps track of all your login info, along with a USB socket on the keyboard? Keep the USB key on your keyring. Plug it into the keyboard when you sit down, you are logged in. Pull it out when you leave.

Then I was talking to a friend of mine who uses lots of different computers, and she wanted her whole environment saved on a USB keyfob. And why not? A gigabyte of flash memory is less than $20 now. You could keep you entire desktop, all your preferences, address book, etc, etc. on it.

Lets not even talk about where Windows keeps the browser cache.

Grow Online Game Solutions / Spoiler

I spent several (many?) hours this fall playing the various versions of the online game "Grow". The game is not difficult to play, you simple select objects to add to the game. The tricky part is getting the sequence of objects correct. Each time you add an object, something happens in the game. If, or when, you get the sequence correct, more things happen, and you get congratulations in one form or another. Version 3 could be considered the most difficult as there are twelve objects to choose from, which means there are 12! (twelve factorial, which is a very large number. 479,001,600 if you must know.) possible sequences to choose from. There are some clues you can use to try and determine the correct order. Sometimes when you add one object, some of the other objects will "level up". And when you have finished adding all the objects, the final level of each object is reported. The puzzle is solved when all objects reach their "max" value. If an object has not reached its' maximum level, it either was not added early enough in the sequence, or an object that it depended on was not added early enough. Likewise, if an object does reach its' maximum level, it was either added at the correct point, or possibly too early. As near as I can tell, each object should go up one level each time a subsequent object is added. Objects that are added early in the game increase their level more times than objects added late in the game. In my pursuit of the solution I started keeping notes as to the order objects were added and the levels they reached. While I was working on these puzzles, they kept me very entertained. Now I find them a bit tedious. In any case, if you are interested, here are the solutions. I only post them here because I spent so long working on this and I wanted to save the results somewhere. I am not sure anyone will want to see them.

Grow version one has recently appeared, but it is not nearly as complicated. I worked through all the possibilities in about an hour.

Grow Version 2 http://www.eyezmaze.com/grow/v2

* Cone
* Block
* Paper
* Can
* Hole
* Ball

Grow Version 3 http://www.eyezmaze.com/grow/v3/

* Egg
* Block
* Ladder
* Ball
* Pipe
* Hill
* Prop
* Gear
* Funnel
* Bowl
* Base
* Screen

RPG http://www.eyezmaze.com/grow/RPG

* House
* Trees
* Castle
* Water
* Tower
* Rocks
* Chest
* Stairs

Cube http://www.eyezmaze.com/grow/cube

* Dude
* H2O
* Bush
* Pail
* Tube
* Fire
* Dish
* Bone
* Ball
* Coil

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Manfred

Manfred used to work for Stevens, the company where I am currently employed. He does not work there anymore. He is beloved by many of the employees, as they have worked together for many years. He can be a charming fellow. He is also an alcoholic and it has finally caught up with him. He has been in rehabilitation two or three times this year. The last time he stopped at the liquor store on his way home. He drinks until he is so sick that he cannot get any more alcohol, and then he calls 911. They come and take him to the hospital. The hospital keeps him a few days until he is back on his feet and then they let him go. Then he goes home and starts drinking again.

I have heard several tragic stories of alcoholics, and I have wondered what could be done about it. We could lock them in jail, except that our jails are already overflowing, so we are only keeping the most violent offenders locked up. Besides, he has not really done anything wrong, he has not robbed or attacked anyone. We cannot legally restrict his freedom unless he is convicted of breaking a law.

His future is not bright. His path of continued self destructive behavior will surely result in his early impoverishment and demise. Surely something could be done.

Perhaps it is time for our legal and social understanding of addiction to catch up to our scientific one. Whatever freewill Manfred has is an illusion. Manfred is not under his own control, he is under the influence of his addiction, and it is killing him.

Perhaps something like a prison farm might help. Inmates would be confined against their will, so to speak, but would have the opportunity to work and a certain amount of freedom within their restricted community. It should be possible to eliminate alcohol from a small community like this. They would be able to interact with the world at large through communication and commerce. Alcohol would be contraband.

The cost of operating such a community could be taken from taxes on alcoholic beverages. While this might effectively reduce the tax revenue currently produced by sales of alcoholic beverages, the other costs that alcoholics impose on society should be greatly reduced.

I read a story in a magazine recently about the million dollar drunk. Someone in emergency services noticed that they been picking up the same man repeatedly and checked their records to see how long this had been going on. It was something like ten years, and the unpaid bill for emergency services and hospitalization was over a million dollars. This one mans alcoholism had cost this community a million dollars.

There are also the costs due to damage caused by drunk drivers. Of course not all drunk drivers are alcoholics, so it would not go to zero.

More importantly though, there is the loss of the person.

The big problem here is the legal, and society's, concept of freedom and free will. On one hand we have a President who has effectively rescinded the right of Habeus Corpus, and on the other we have recently seen the repudiation of the President's agenda in the mid-term Congressional elections.

I like to think I am a friend of freedom. I think the government is overstepping their bounds in their attempt to pursue terrorists. Perhaps if the situation in the Middle East was not such a mess, I might think differently, but it is not and I do not.

I do not like the idea of locking up someone because they had too much to drink. But I do think we should try to help those who are clearly on a self destructive path, and if the only way to accomplish that is incarceration, then so be it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Multiple Monitors

I came across an article on the web from 2000 from someone in the publishing business who was using triple monitors like it was the most normal thing in the world. I just realized one of the reasons I avoid using some newer software programs is that they put up lots of little windows that, on my small, single monitor, overlap, and I have to keep pointing and clicking to see what I want to see. Triple monitors would surely alleviate some of that!

I found these web sites. I like the $1100 triple screen. Special video cards are available at Newegg.

http://www.digitaltigers.com/multiplemonitors.shtml

http://www.multiplemonitors.org/

Today one of my favorite blogs jumped on the bandwagon:

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000740.html


My son John has an old Matrox Millenium card with two VGA connectors. I am going to try and hook it up and see if I can make it work.

Raves

John put the lights on the Christmas tree. I helped. It has been my job, more or less, since Anne and I got married to get the tree and put the lights on it. This year John put the lights on, and I am very greatful. I was feeling very wiped out this weekend, and it felt like one more little chore would have been more than I could handle.

John and Ross cleaned up the garage Saturday after I got done chewing on the base of the Christmas tree with the chain saw. Made quite a mess. If I had been thinking clearly, I would have been operating out on the front lawn instead of inside the garage. I did eventually move outside. I think my fuzzy thinking is another symptom of the "bug" I am suffering from.

I am reasonably certain that operating a chainsaw over a concreate floor is a bad idea. Besides all the dangers inherent in operating a chain saw, if the moving chain came in contact with the concrete it would ruin the chain, make a gash in the pristene surface of the concrete floor, and send concrete chips flying. A nasty business all around.

Kathryn wanted a real Christmas tree. Years ago we used to have real Christmas trees, but it seemed like every Christmas several people in our family would get sick with colds. Anne suspected that it might be due to the Christmas tree, and being that some of my children and I suffer from hay fever, we thought it might be allergies that were making us miserable, so we decided to try an artifical tree for a while. I think we spent about $200 for the tree, but it may have been ten years ago, and with inflation, and my fuzzy memory, it may have only been about $100.

Anyway, a year or two ago, Kathryn got the idea that we should have a real tree, and she managed to persuade the rest of us to go along with her plan. Last year we went to a tree farm and cut our own. This year we drove to a lot about two miles away and picked up an enormous tree for $15.

When we got home we set about trying to put the stand on the base of the tree. Right off we could see that it would not fit. The stand is plastic, with an intergral bucket in the center, about eight inches in diameter and eight inches tall. I trimmed some branches around the base and that made the base of the tree just small enough to fit in the stand. Except for the screws that protruded inside the bucket. So I cut four grooves in the sides of the base of the tree for the screws. Try and slide the stand on and I can see that it might just work, and then I notice that the bucket is tapered. The base of the tree will just barely fit in the top of the bucket, but it is not going to slide in all the way to the bottom.

I look at the tree and see that about eight inches up from the base of the tree, the diameter falls about an inch. More chain saw work, cut eight inches off the end of the tree, trim more branches off, and lastly, taper the end so we won't have any trouble getting it all the way into the base. Set it up, fill it with water and let it soak overnight. Sunday the boys helped me carry it into the house.

Rants

Gol darn kids. Wife went to Costco yesterday, picked up a twelve pack of apples. Not a bag of apples mind you, a twelve pack: a large plastic tray molded to hold twelve huge apples, with a similar cover. Whoever put this package in the bin in the fridge just put it on top of the apples that were already there. I go to get an apple this morning and the draw will not open, the Costco apple carrier has fallen afoul of the top of the bin and the drawer is jammed. Futz around, get it open, cut the top off the apple carrier, put in in the bottom of the drawer, put the other apples on top. They fit neatly between the Costco apples and exactly fill the available spaces. Then I take one out. Perfect symetry disturbed.

The cat door to the garage is closed. The big cat has been terrorizing the smaller one. Is there a connection?

Somebody left the bag of bread open. I think maybe we have too much money. Imagine leaving a bag of bread open, letting it get stale, not eating it, throwing it away. Horrors!

Friday, December 8, 2006

Blood work

Went to the lab this morning to get blood drawn for my monthly coumadine test, aka Pro-Time. Since I was getting stuck once, I figured I may as well get stuck again so I went to the allergist's and got my monthly allergy shot. Pure Voodoo.

Get to work and find the flourescent light fixture in the men's room is on the fritz. It is strobing to beat the band. I could leave it and complain or I could just fix it, I mean it probably only needs to have the bulbs replaced, and I am pretty sure we have some spares. So I start taking it apart. Wait a minute, how does this thing come apart? Oh, these little featureless bumps are actually plastic thumb screws. They come out easily enough, and the end covers they were retaining, and the diffuser they were retaining, come right off. Go get a couple of spare bulbs and put them in. They work, so all I need to do is put the diffuser back on. Well, it is filthy, so I get a damp paper towel and start to wipe it off. I pick it up by one end and it shatters, putting a nasty little gash in my left ring finger.

Okay, off to the first aid box for a bandaid. Lots of boxes, big guaze pads, a couple of open boxes of tiny bandaids, a bunch of celophane wrapped boxes that look like they are probably for something serious. Oh, here is the regular bandaid box. It is empty, except for a pair of little scissors. Well, maybe I can make do with the little bandaids. I enlist Pam's assistance and she gets me patched up. It takes three of these tiny bandaids. I think I will be okay, it has not soaked through yet. A couple people ask me if I have washed out the wound, and I reply that it has been bleeding so much, any dirt that was in there has probably been washed away by the blood. I wonder if this is a valid assumption.

So I am back in business, but what do I do about the shattered light fixture? The bare bulbs are glaring. I could spend the rest of the day looking for a replacement, or looking for someone to replace it, and then trying to figure out how to get this paid for. I could dump it on someone else, but most everyone here has plenty of their own work to do, so I think I will just patch it up myself. Quickest, though not necessarily the best, solution. Besides, the company is moving soon, and who knows what the new tenants are going to do with this place?

I look in the dangerous chemicals cabinet for some super glue, but I do not see any right off, and that is just as well. I do not really want to try gluing this mess back together with a bum finger. So I opt to use clear plastic package tape. Half a dozen pieces of tape later and the diffuser is back together. Not perfect, but adequate. Very carefully I put it back on the fixture and reinstall the end covers and screws. Whew, all done.

All this trouble with the light could have been avoided if we had a decent light maintenance program. Simply have someone come in and replace all the bulbs at the recommended interval. But since this is operation is run by a penny pinching idiot, that is not going to happen, and since we can afford to have me spend an hour screwing around with this stupid light, I imagine we can afford to have me spend an hour writing up this stupid report.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Pressure

I was talking to Lloyd this morning while he was calibrating some pressure sensors. We make two kinds of pressure sensors. He was working on the older model, which requires a special jig to pressurize the transducer. The transducer on the new sensor has a little tube sticking out from one side, about 1/16 on an inch in diameter. For this sensor, he only has to slip a plastic tube over it. So how much pressure are we talking about here? The sensor is good to a depth of 60 feet (of water), which is about 30 psi (pounds per square inch). The cross section of the inside of this plastic tube is pretty small. Using our formula for area (PI x R^2) we get about 1.5 ounces of force. Not very much. No wonder the tubing does not need a clamp.

A while back I stopped at the Lancair factory in Redmond and talked to a couple of people who worked there. They were telling us about pressure testing the cabin for the Lancair IV. They took the pressure up to 5 psi, and all was well. They took it up to 10 psi, and everything was still fine. I believe that is all that is needed for aircraft. Then they took it up to 15 psi, just to see if it would hold, and people started leaving the building. Imagine what would have happened if there had been a catastrophic failure. Could have been a big bang.

Cataclysmic Destruction

I was talking to my friend Jack the other day and he mentioned that there was evidence that the oxygen content of the atmosphere had varied between 12 and 30 percent. It is now about 20 percent. So no wonder dinosaurs could fly if the air was 30% oxygen. Jack pointed out that you get much above 30% and you could have spontaneous combustion. So maybe that is what happened to the dinosaurs. The oxygen level got so high that they all just caught fire and burned to death.

Meteors

Small rocks hit the moon.

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/01dec_lunarleonid.htm

Science, thinking & publicity

The first few paragraphs are illuminating.

http://web.archive.org/web/20070617145754/http://www.rit.edu/~flwstv/galileo.html

Alcohol Based Cooling - Science Fair Project

According to our preliminary plan, John needs a short length of copper pipe to build his alchohol based computer chip cooler. We looked at Home Depot a couple of weeks ago. They had the copper pipe and fittings we needed. Unfortunately, we wanted pipe that was two inches in diameter, and this size pipe only comes in ten foot lengths, which cost about 70 or 80 dollars.

I called Ivo Skora this morning to ask about this pipe. He does not use copper pipe of this large a diameter, and does not know of anyone else who does either. He suggested calling Anctil Plumbing.

I looked up copper pipe on the internet and I found a place that sells it, but it is no bargain:

http://www.plumbingsupply.com/copperpipe.html

They want $46 for a one foot length, $85 for a two foot length.

I talked to Jack about this project the other day, and he suggested using tape as a safety valve. Heating any kind of liquid in a sealed container can be very dangerous. I do not think tape is a good idea, as adhesives gnerally do not do well when heated. I am thinking a rubber cork might do. This is what we used with the water bottle rockets many years ago. The cork should be secured with a cord that it does not go flying across the room in case it does pop off.

The temperatures we are intending to work with should not be dangerous. However, anytime you are heating something, there is the possiblity that something will go wrong, and according to Murphy's law, if something can go wrong, it will. So we must endeavor to ensure that nothing does go wrong.

We may want to keep a fire extingusher handy in case the alchohol is flammable. I was thinking that we could test the rubbing alchohol to see if it will burn. Since it is mixed with water, it may not. However, alchohol has a lower boiling point than water, so if you heat it, you may get a flammable vapor, which could be very bad.

Perhaps we should just stick with water. Or we could test the alcohol version at home, and take the water filled version to the science fair.

Phone Voice Quality Metrics

Where are all the metrics? We replaced the cordless phone in our kitchen recently. The last phone was some brand I did not recognize that I bought at the local supermarket. It works reliably, but the voice quality is poor. We had an AT&T phone a while back, and it was great, but it died eventually. We replaced it with a Uniden, which was pretty good. When it died, we tried an AT&T phone from Office Depot. I was thrilled to find an AT&T phone, I thought this will be great. But that was not to be. It had some kind of horrible problem and we ended up exchanging it for another Uniden phone, which seems to work pretty well. I would like to see a metric for voice quality, but I haven't.

New Guy

We have a new radio man: Mike B. He is here for three weeks, maybe longer if things work out. He is going to be working on GHT's (GOES High data rate Transmitters). Former military man, moved here three weeks ago from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. His wife is from Oregon, she is a Native American from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

As one might expect of a military man, he has an interest in firearms and shooting. Recently he has taken up black powder shooting, and has been teaching his kids to shoot. It is one thing to take shooting seriously and make every shot count, but with modern rapid fire firearms, it is very easy to just start blasting away for the fun of it. Shooting muzzle loaders means you have to work for every shot, which means you are more likely to make every shot count. You can spend all day shooting 20 or 30 rounds from a muzzle loader, whereas with a modern semi-automatic rifle you can whip off that many in a few seconds. And if you are shooting a high powered rifle, it can get very expensive.

He has taught his 15 year old daughter and younger son to shoot. His daughter has gotten quite good. She wanted to go shopping, so he gave her a goal. If she met the goal, he would take her shopping. The goal was to put a hole in a 308 shell casing at 100 yards using only four cartridges using a modern center fire rifle with a scope. He taped the shell to target board. A 308 shell is about one half of inch in diameter and maybe two inches long. She knicked it on the first shot, and managed to put holes in it with the next three. Mike took her shopping.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Games - Cubox - Sliding Block Puzzle

I found a new source of online computer games:

http://www.channel4.com/entertainment/games/

One I like in particular is:

http://www.unclebenny.com/nickel/CUBOX/cubox.html

It is sliding block puzzle, and it is a little curious. Most solutions can be done in six moves. Sometimes I can just look at the puzzle and instantly know how to solve it. Others will baffle me for a long time. What is even odder, is that I can come back and replay puzzles I solved easily before, and have a very difficult time solving them the second time. Others that I had difficulty with before, I solve easily.

Update September 2015: Links are not, but they are pretty useless.

Rage

I lost my temper at work first thing this morning. Yelled, screamed, cursed, even threw things. Poor Martin, he triggered it, by making a simple, ordinary request. A field representative wanted to show a potential customer what could be done in the way of displaying environmental data. No big deal, except that the program that we would run to do this was dead in the water due to the lack of a password. The computer this program runs on also runs a e-mail forwarding program that must always be running. If it fails for any reason, customers call up and raise hell. The demo program, which displays weather data, has recently been upgraded, and as is the nature of upgrades, has become unstable to the point that it will occasionally crash the computer. This is very bad. It is not a problem to restart the computer, but the e-mail program must be started manually, and that cannot be done unless you can logon, and to do that you must have the password. Which until I threw my fit, I did not have, even though I had asked for it a month ago.

These programs should not require the administrator to logon. They should start automatically. It should not be necessary for someone to logon and manually start them. Hopefully, we should be able to correct these shortcomings.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Breakage

The life cycle of numerous devices came to an end last week. We located the source of the squeak in the garage door, the bearings at the end of the main shaft were shot. The hot water dispenser in the kitchen sprung a leak, the electric motor that runs the driver's window in my truck gave out, and we finally decided to get the furnace fixed. The garage door man came on Wednesday and replaced the bearings. The furnace man came on Friday and replaced the ignitor in the furnace, which got it going. The plumber is due to come out some time this weak and replace the hot water dispenser.

The furnace died last winter, but the weather (as I recall) was fairly mild, and we have two gas fireplaces. I had just spent $500 getting a valve replaced in one of the fireplaces, and was not looking forward to spending more money on the furnace. So I just let it slide. Things got a little dicey this fall. Gas fireplaces work best if they have a fan to circulate the air around the firebox and blow hot air out into the room. The fan in the basement fireplace was rattling. It got cold and we turned on the furnace. After about a day, Anne notices that the house is not getting any warmer, and the furnace seems to be blowing cold air. Oh! That's right, it broke last winter and we never got it fixed! But wait, we have another gas fireplace, let's just fire it up. It lights up, it warms up, the thermostatic switch engages, the fan starts blowing warm air. All is well for about 30 seconds and then the fan starts screaming it's head off. Gads! Shut that thing off! A couple of hours of fooling around, a little epoxy, and the fans are running again. But the furnace is still broken and it is really cold outside.

I took my truck in to the Dodge Dealer in Beaverton to get the window fixed. They could not get it done. They did not have the part, they were busy, they did not have time. If I wanted, they could order the part for Monday. I declined, partly because they wanted $400 to fix the window. $400 is a stink load of money for one broken little do-dad. The garage door repair and the furnace repair were about $150 each, and they came to my house to do the work. I looked on the Internet and there are places that sell window regulators for about $80. The dealer wanted $160 for the part. The Internet part is risky. It might be perfectly good quality, but it might be shoddy, and that would mean another repair in a year or two. Reputation means a lot.

Anyway, after subtracting the cost of the parts, that means $240 for labor, which means about three hours of work, maybe two hours if the mechanic is really good at it. Which means it would probably take me all day. I thought I would open up the door this weekend and have a look, but between helping my kids, doing a few chores, and goofing off, all I managed was to pull the truck into the garage. I know my limits, I could pressure myself to fix it, but that would cut into my slack time, and that would make me grumpy, and nobody likes me when I am grumpy, so I am going to have the dealer perform the repair.

But I do not think I will be going back to the dealer in Beaverton. This is the third time they have disappointed me. First time they replaced an intake manifold gasket on warranty, which failed a month or so later, which necessitated a tow. The second time they did not have time to do an oil change when I showed up around noon. This was the last straw. So now I have to arrange to drop the truck at the dealer in Hillsboro. Probably do it on Christmas vacation.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Tribalism

I do not care for President Bush. It is not his apparent stupidity, after all he was smart enough to get elected. He is not as articulate as some would wish, but that does not mean he is stupid. Different people have different abilities, and simply because one is a glib blabbermouth does not mean they are any smarter than anyone else. Rather it is because he is a Republican, and Republicans have become repugnant to me. My mother was a bleeding heart liberal of the first order, and I suppose that to be a prime influence on my outlook. Democrats are not much better. It was a Democrat who proposed reinstating the draft last month, just after they had gained control of Congress.

The problem is, has been, and will no doubt always be, tribalism. Us versus Them.

America's horrendous foreign policy since World War II is what got us to where we are. I have been aware of it, more or less, since Kennedy was assassinated when I was twelve, and I have been aghast at the things I have heard from supposedly intelligent people. Henry Kissinger is a prime example of a really stupid, intelligent person. I say this from my gut, I cannot site any specific examples, but everything I have heard from him reinforces this feeling.

The Republicans, for example, are only for the Republicans. Never mind the poor, where is my next ten million coming from? If you are not rich, you are not one of them.

What we need is more people of means making opportunities for people without means.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving Weekend

Long Holidays and vacations give me trouble. If I travel I end up exhausted. If I stay home, I sluff off, and end up bummed out that I didn't get much done. This extra long weekend was not too bad. Ross came home from school Wednesday evening, Anne fixed a nice meal for Thursday, I stuffed myself and then took a two hour nap.

James Bond

Anne and the boys and I went to see the new James Bond movie Thanksgiving evening, it was a great Bond movie. It had most of the standard Bond elements, great stunts, exotic locations, fast cars, beautiful women, murder, mayhem, villains and explosions. The only thing missing was Q explaining all the latest gadgets.

Books

I finished a book by Alan Furst, "Dark Voyage" was the title, I think. I really enjoyed it. He is my favorite author at the moment: World War II intrigue and adventure. I picked up several other books later on, but none of them could keep my attention. Three of them were Science Fiction, by authors I used to enjoy:
- David Weber, of "Honor Harrington" fame,
- Larry Niven, whose accurate science made him required reading in my astronomy class back in school, and
- Eric Nylund, who wrote a Star Wars novel that I really enjoyed.
Finally, on Sunday, I picked up a small non-fiction volume about Napoleon, and so far, so good.

Napoleon is the main villain in Patrick O'Brians sea stories ("Master and Commander", a recent film, was based on his series of novels). Besides being a tyrant, Napoleon accomplished a number of things that are still with us. Very curious. Reminds me of the Carrdasians occupation of Bijor on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine", or my own evaluation of recent presidents. David Weber's "Honor Harrington" series parallels Britain's war with France during the revolution, complete with a cast of despicable revolutionary leaders with names taken right from the French revolution. And don't forget the English in India. So it is interesting to see the other side of the coin. I may have to read more about the French revolution.

Computers

I tried cleaning my old Okidata laser printer (actually it is an LED printer, but never mind that). It had been working fine, but then one day it started leaving big black clouds all over the pages. I accused Johnny of banging into while rough housing with his friends, but he denies it. It is fairly old, but it hasn't seen much use. Opening it up reveals toner all over the inside. Vacuum cleaner does not do much good, neither does the air compressor. I pick up some laser printer cleaning sheets at Office Depot ($13). Before I try the cleaning sheets, I decide to do a little exploratory surgery. A dozen or so screws and some wiggling later, I have it pretty much all apart. Not that it helps. I put it together and run a cleaning sheet through but it does not really help. Matter of fact, it is behaving worse than before. So much for disassembly and reassembly, a technique that has often worked before. Next step would be to replace the toner cartridge, but I am afraid it will probably cost more than a new printer. The cartridge incorporates the imaging drum, so it will no doubt be expensive.

Kids

I helped Johnny take apart an old, broken down laptop. It was a bit of a challenge to do so without breaking anything. We got some tips from the Internet, and when we were still stymied, we knocked off one of the plastic feet using a screwdriver and a hammer. That gained us access to the last screw holding the top cover on. After that is was just a matter of about two dozen more screws.

More

I worked with Kathryn a bit on her math homework, and with Ross on his paper about sound systems for his physics class. Neither one likes math. They can do it if they apply themselves, but they have no interest in doing so.

Movies

Stopped at the video store the other night. Did not see much that interested me, which I thought was curious. I had seen a bunch of ads on TV over the summer for movies that looked interesting, but I do not recognize any at the video store. I do not remember the titles, I just remember seeing some ads, and I think I would recognize the covers of the those movies, but I do not. So I go to IMDB and try to find these films that I saw advertised. It takes some poking around, but I eventually land on their "power search" page and I get a list of about 300 titles. I look through it and find maybe a dozen movies that look like they might be worth watching. Am I picky or what? Anne and I rented a movie one night, but I cannot remember what it was. Some action/adventure film, most likely. I rented the most recent X-men movie and watched it by myself Sunday night. Johnny joined me for a bit, but he had already seen it, and mom sent him to bed before it ended.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Canon Pixma MP150 Printer

November 13, 2006
Canon Pixma MP150 Printer

A while back my brother Andy came to visit. While he was here he bought a new laptop computer, which came with a free Canon printer. He didn't need the printer, so he left it with me. Very fancy printer, photo quality ink-jet with built in scanner. We hooked it up a couple of months ago and used it to print a few items.

This weekend it started acting up. Paper would not feed. Push the buttons, cycle power, load and reload paper, read the manual, follow the troubleshooting guide, waste a couple of hours fooling around. Finally decide it's junk, not worth taking the time to pack it up and send it back to the factory for repair (replacement). Get junior's toolkit and take it apart. What a pain. Try to take the control panel out of the scanner/lid. Decide it's too much effort. Put it back together, without the side covers. It prints! What the #$%&? And what is this little plastic piece that's left over? White plastic, about a half inch long, with two pins.

Dr. Strangelove

November 13, 2006
Dr. Strangelove

My boss (Mike Fleming) and our chief engineer here at Stevens just got back from a big meeting about GOES satellites in South Carolina. Not much new on the GOES front, more of the same bureaucratic nonsense, but he did bring back another story. Seems the Navy is putting up a constellation of LEO (low earth orbit) satellites to provide broadband communications. They do not expect to fully utilize the capacity of these satellites anytime soon, so are thinking about leasing bandwidth to the commercial sector. The Navy has put up eight of these radiation hardened satellites so far. Designing radiation hardened DSP's is my boss's specialty, so he is especially interested in this. (DSP: Digital Signal Processor. Most all radio communications uses DSP these days.)

You may have heard how the space shuttle has five computers that all do the same job, and the results they produce are a result of a vote amongst these processors. They do this because of radiation. Radiation in space is higher than it is on earth, and can cause errors in computers. Radiation hardening is anything you do to a piece of equipment so that it can continue to operate when exposed to nuclear radiation. The simplest way to do it is to shield the equipment with lead or concrete or something similar. Another way is to make each component large enough that destruction of a few molecules will not impact it's performance. Both these methods mean the device is going to larger and heavier, and heavy is the enemy of space travel.

Redundant devices is another way to deal with this problem. The space shuttle uses multiple computers. Mike's method is similar to the space shuttle method, but instead of duplicating the computers, he uses multiple transistors in the processing chip at the core of the computer itself.

For the military, radiation hardening does not mean just being able to survive the normal incident radiation of outerspace, but also to survive the EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) produced by a nearby nuclear explosion, such as one caused by a North Korean Missle armed with a nuclear warhead that detonates prematurely.

Anyway, with the amount of bandwidth available from these Navy satellites, we could have Sat-phones (Satellite telephone) the size of cell-phones, and we wouldn't need all these cell phone towers. The power required to reach a LEO satellite is about the same that a cell phone produces. So now we are looking at the Sat-phone business.

Since these are military satellites, privacy would be nil, on the other hand, there would be thousands of channels, and how many channels can they actually listen to? And since they are military satellites, the military could shut down the service any time they wanted, similar to their control of the GPS satellites.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/systems/muos.htm

Cat's Eye

November 10 , 2006
Cat's Eye

I noticed that one of our cats appeared to have a hair lying across the lens of one eye. Did not seem to bother him.

Talked to someone about this and they said that it does not bother cats or dogs to have a hair in their eye, and that they just wipe it out with their finger.

!?!?!?!?!

Africa

November 13, 2006
Africa

There was a big article about Africa in the Travel section yesterday and I tried to locate the country that Asante (the new guy at work) is from. I look on the map figuring I will be able to easily pick it out, but whoa! There are a whole bunch of countries whose name starts with G. Is is Ghana? Guinea? Guzortek? Turns out it is Gambia, 11,000 square kilometers (tiny), surrounded by Senegal, former British Crown Colony, gained independence in 1964, still part of the British Commonwealth. There are a bunch of old forts there from when it was part of the British Empire. It is a narrow strip of land on either side of the Gambia river. The country is as wide as British warships could fire shells from the river.

Ghana is also a former British Colony, became independent in 1960.

Custer

November 22, 2006
Custer

One of the speakers at my Toastmasters meeting today gave a speech entitled "Custer had it coming". Bob Fineburg, the speaker, got this title from a bumper sticker he saw when he was in college. One of his professors sent him out to interview an old Indian (Native American) chief, who claimed to have been in the battle at Little Big Horn, where Custer was killed. The battle was in 1876, the interview was in 1976. In 1976, you could still get to the site of the battle. Now it is closed to everyone, including Native Americans, because of looting: people digging up bones and bullets and taking them away.

The grass at the site is called greasy-grassy because it looks like it is coated with grease.

After the battle the Indians scalped the dead soldiers, except for Custer. For Custer, they drove sticks in his ears, so that when he got to heaven, or the "happy hunting grounds" or wherever his spririt was going, they would know that he did not listen, which evidently was the Indians biggest complaint against him.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Johnny builds another computer

Johnny put together a computer this weekend using some parts from his previous gaming system and some parts from some old systems I drug home from work. It wasn't enough to just bolt it together: it had to be modified, for improved cooling, you know. The case had two places, one in front and one in back, for mounting auxiliary cooling fans. The rack for the three and a half inch disk drives was a separate piece that could be removed. Johnny wanted extra cooling for the disk drives, so we bent some tabs and drilled some holes and mounted this disk drive rack to the floor of the case. This positioned it right in back of the fan mounted to the front panel.

Johnny also had some chrome wire fan grills that he wanted to use. The case had grills that were integral to the case made by punching a bunch of holes in the sheet metal. We cut these grills out by using an electric drill to cut the strips-of-metal-between-adjacent-holes (there is a term for this but I do not remember what it is). Then we used a small diameter (one inch) grindstone mounted in a high speed (three or four thousand RPM) electric drill to grind away jagged edges and then to remove the remaining metal to make the hole full size. We should have taken some pictures. It would make this easier to explain. A video with accurate sound would give a realistic idea of what all was involved. Grinding was very noisy. We wore the grindstone down to nothing.

Before we started all this drilling and cutting, Johnny removed all the electronic components from the computer case, including the power supply and the front panel switches. Little bits of steel can ruin sensitive electronics. After we were done with all the metal work, we used the air compressor to clean the case. We covered the floor of our work area (in the garage) with metal bits. I swept them up, it was quite a pile.

Johnny also spent considerable time sorting out the electronic components. We had three motherboards and three disk drives, all apparently good, but not all combinations would work together. Some motherboards would run the BIOS, but would not boot from any disk. Some disks would format and test fine, but no motherboard could boot from them. We finally ended up using the newest, and most powerful motherboard with one of two 80GB disk drives we had. We could not get our second 80GB disk to boot. It tests fine otherwise, so it is providing extra storage.

I was talking to Jack at lunch today about the mods we made to the computer case this weekend and I realized we probably should have wiped out the case with a damp cloth when were done, to pick up any grit that was left over from the grinding. Blowing it out with air was probably adequate, but the next time we do this, we should try wiping it off and see if we get any more grit.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Driving

Drove the car-car to work today, as it needed service and the Chrysler dealer is a short walk from where I work.

I almost lost control of the car on the corner coming off Highway 26 onto 217. Same place where I came upon a Honda facing the wrong direction a month or so ago. He had spun out, but was undamaged. Everybody stopped to let him turn around and proceed. I blamed it on poor driving ability.

This morning's incident made me rethink that. I was a little irritated with all the doofi around me, and I was trying to pass one goober brain who had pulled in front of me, but I didn't think I was going that fast. But about halfway through the corner, the rear end started sliding and for a second there I thought I was going to lose it completely, but I got it under control, but just for a second, and then it started sliding again. Not as bad the second time, but it was still a little unnerving. I am thinking there must be something wrong with that corner. I tried the brakes when I got off the freeway and I was able to really jam them on without sliding. So be careful out there.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Smalltalk

Sheridan mentioned Smalltalk in her speech yesterday. It brought back an old memory. About ten years ago, when I was working for Intel, I wrangled a trip to Austin, ostensibly to interview for a job with Sematech, the semiconductor equipment manufacturers consortium. The guy I interviewed with was the inventor of Smalltalk. He asked me what I had learned at Intel, and I replied "nothing". Needless to say, I did not get the job, but it sure got me thinking. Here I had been busting my behind for years, trying to solve an endless stream of technical problems, and I had nothing to show for it. Oh, I had a vast quantity of facts at my disposal regarding the equipment and software I had been working with, but no one was interested, and it wasn't getting me anywhere career-wise. So even if I didn't learn anything at Intel, I learned something from this trip.

Situation Normal

It got a little cool here a couple of weeks ago, so we turned on the furnace. A day later Anne comments that it hasn't gotten any warmer, and the furnace is only blowing cold air. OH! That's right, the furnace quit last winter, and we didn't bother to get it fixed. We had two gas fireplaces, and I had just spent $500 to get one fixed (the automatic valve failed). So we just used the fireplaces to heat the house and that worked fine.

So the furnace is out, we'll just turn on the fireplace. Flip the switch a couple of times and it lights up. Give it a few minutes to warm up and the thermal switch turns on the fan. Great, all is well. Whoops, what is that horrible screeching noise? Bearings in the fan motor maybe? Turn it off, pull it out, take it apart. No, nothing wrong with the bearings, the armature is loose on the shaft. The shaft pulls right out. It is colored blue where the armature was spinning on it. Tried to tie them together with a screw by filing a flat on the shaft and drilling into the armature parallel to the shaft to make sort of rough keyway. Did not work out.

Got some seeping Loctite (green) from work. Supposed to be able to use it on screws that have already been tightened. Put the shaft in the armature and set them up vertically. Put a couple of drops at the joint, they disappeared immediately. Let it set a few minutes. No luck. Shaft pulled right out, Loctite was still liquid.

Ended up using epoxy. I was a little concerned that there wasn't enough space between the two parts to make a proper joint, but so far it is holding.

Kathryn needed more space for clothes so she and her mom went to Target and bought a dresser in a box for $200. Particle board and 500 fasteners. Kathryn and I got the five drawers put together the other night.

Tutoring both kids (John and Kathryn) in algebra. Kathryn hates it, but is committed to finishing the class. John's only problem is that his teacher is SOOO BORRRING that he can't pay attention in class. I give him a little help and he seems to pick up on it pretty quick. Interesting that all the kids have differing views on the same math teachers. What one kid finds horrible, another finds great.

Kathryn is working part time (about ten hours a week) as a hostess at "The Old Spaghetti Factory", so she's driving, but the only car she will drive is the car-car. She won't drive the van and she will only drive the truck under protest. Both Anne and her complain about the visibility in the truck, and I have to admit, they are right. I have almost run down pedestrians at corners because they were hiding behind my mirrors.

Perhaps if I replace the mirrors with smaller ones the girls will be happier about driving the truck. So I call the dealer, they have smaller power mirrors available. $350 installed. If it would save me from buying a new car, it would be worth it. It wouldn't, of course, but I could use that argument to justify buying them. Then I thought I would check on E-bay. $9 for a pair. Of course I have to install them myself. And I have to figure out how to seal them. And I have to make a trip to the store for electrical connectors. And they have fake carbon fiber texturing painted on.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Excitement, twice removed

One of the guys who works here (at Stevens) used to work for Flir http://www.flir.com/
He always had stories to tell about the place.

Today we were talking about motors and bearings (the circulating fan in my gas fireplace is on the fritz) and he tells us this story about the infrared cameras. They used a very small detecting element, a beryllium lens, a couple of oscillating mirrors and a spinning mirror to scan an image. The motor driving the mirror spun at 20,000 rpm on ceramic bearings. The whole assembly is mounted inside a hollowed out billet of aluminum with walls about one inch thick. The billet is about the size of a small coffee can. Sometimes the bearings in the motor would seize up and the whole thing would crater. The OUTSIDE surface of the aluminum block would appear to be covered with pimples from the impacts of pieces of disintegrating motor on the inside of the block.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Addiction

Manfred got thrown in jail over the weekend. He had started drinking again. Then he started calling 911. They would come pick him up and take him to the emergency room where they would give him an IV which would hydrate him and give him some nourishment. He couldn't eat anything. He did this a couple of times and then the Fire Captain told him not to call 911 anymore. And he called 911. So they threw him in jail. He is out now. Maybe he was released because of overcrowding, maybe someone bailed him out. I don't know.

Addiction is a terrible thing. I remember a story I read about an anesthesiologist who worked in a hospital. He started "playing" around with Fentanyl a hyper-addictive anesthetic. He wasn't worried, after all he was a professional, he knew what he was doing, he had it under control. And then one day he noticed that maybe he was using a bit more than he should. So he took a two week vacation, which removed him from the hospital and put the fentanyl out of reach. The two weeks passed and he went back to work. The first thing he knew he was in the medicine closet shooting up and he had no idea how he got there. An addicted brain cannot be trusted. That is what makes addiction so bad.

Friday, October 6, 2006

Security?

Ross now has an expensive laptop, and I have encouraged him to get a lock, and being as you work for Kensington, and Kensington has lots of great stuff like laptop locks, perhaps you can arrange for one.

But I wonder whether locks are really worthwhile. They get in the way, they are clumsy, in short, they are annoying. And do they stop any thefts? You can lock something up reliably for years and the one time you leave it unlocked is the one time someone will try to steal it, and because you left it unlocked this one time, they will succeed. Murphy's law, you know. So you end up putting up with all this nonsense for naught.

Or maybe if you hadn't kept it locked it would have been stolen the first week you got it. That would be a drag.

What I really don't like is air travel. The security checks, the endless waiting, the cramped seating, but most of all the stupid annoying security announcements in the terminal, the ones where they warn you over and over again that unattended bags will be confiscated. I don't want to hear about it. If you are going to confiscate them, just do it. You don't need to warn anybody.

And people who drive around town with high beams and/or driving lights on. Good lord almighty! Parking lights are good enough for most purposes. There are street lights, you know. But the law says you can't drive with your parking lights on. "Lights on for safety". Does this really work? How about if everybody just turned all their dang lights off and we drove around in the dark. Would we have any more accidents?

Anyway, the whole point is reduce or eliminate as many annoyances as you can from your life.

This rant is now over. Thank you for listening.

Medical Card Idea

I am thinking that my idea for a medical credit card is going to have to remain just an idea for now. It will need some fertile ground before it has any hope of becoming more than just an idea. Finding that fertile ground is going to take some time and some luck. More effort would increase the chances of finding a suitable spot, but I don't have the resources to spend on it, so I am going to fall back on serendipity.

The basic idea is to be an ombudsman for people with medical bills. I know I hate dealing with medical bills, and I suspect many other people have the same view. I have a family and I probably get a dozen bills month. Keeping track of who has been paid, whether insurance has paid their part or not, whether the billing agrees with the insurance statement, and whether the bill has any real basis, is a real pain. I finally hired a bookkeeper to take care of this, among other things.

The idea is that the ombudsman would take care of people's medical bills. It would collect all the bills from all of their doctors, file with all of their insurance companies, and send out one bill a month to the concerned party. The big problem with this is how do you make any money AND represent the concerned party? I do not think it likely that you would be able to sell this service to people for what it would cost to run it. The only other way to generate any income would be to do it the way medical billing services do it now, and I suspect that is done on a percentage basis.

The solution may be to form a non-profit, or not-for-profit, organization, and have a charter that lays out the purpose of the organization. I think Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield may be set up like this.

Another model that might work is Costco. They sell memberships and ostensibly represent their members interests, but they make their money from sales.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Star Status

From:

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000694.html


Dare Obasanjo that the talent meritocracy at Google sounds disturbingly similar to the one outlined in Malcolm Gladwell's The Talent Myth

    This "talent mind-set" is the new orthodoxy of American management. It is the intellectual justification for why such a high premium is placed on degrees from first-tier business schools, and why the compensation packages for top executives have become so lavish. In the modern corporation, the system is considered only as strong as its stars, and, in the past few years, this message has been preached by consultants and management gurus all over the world. None, however, have spread the word quite so ardently as McKinsey, and, of all its clients, one firm took the talent mind-set closest to heart. It was a company where McKinsey conducted twenty separate projects, where McKinsey's billings topped ten million dollars a year, where a McKinsey director regularly attended board meetings, and where the C.E.O. himself was a former McKinsey partner. The company, of course, was Enron.


Saturday, September 30, 2006

What's doing at the Pergiel household

Not much doing up here. Ross has moved into a dorm at U of O (Eugene). I bought him a Mac Book Pro. It was supposed to be a high school graduation present, but someone told him Intel was coming out with a new processor that Apple was going to use in a laptop and he should just wait. So he waited and waited and waited until he couldn't stand it anymore and decided to go with what was available. Still waiting for Apple to announce.

Kathryn is working about 15 hours a week at the Spaghetti Factory as a hostess. Not very happy, doesn't like the people she has to work with, but we told her she should stick it out for a while, maybe it will get better. We shall see. She makes better money babysitting for the occasional rich client, but that is the problem, it is occasional.

Johnny is in geek heaven (or is it nerd heaven?). He just bought a new motherboard and a 600 watt power supply for his computer. He wasn't satisfied with his last motherboard. It was supposed to support IDE and SATA hard disks, but we could never get it to talk to the SATA drive. So he deemed it junk and refused to use it at all. He spent last night and this morning lapping heat sinks. For better heat transfer you know. Not enough to use Artic silver heat transfer paste ($8 for 5 gram tube), you have to spend hours sanding the surface of the heat sink to make it as flat as possible. All this is so the processor can run faster, and that means more heat. To run it faster, you sometimes need to increase the voltage, and that means even more heat. The BIOS these days lets you adjust the voltage to the CPU in one-tenth volt increments. And you can adjust about four different memory timing parameters. Reminds me of hot rodders from back in the sixties.

We went to Home Depot and bought a piece of aluminum stock, brought it home and cut four pieces to make a short duct for the cpu fan. With the fan sitting right on top of the CPU, there is a dead spot under the central hub (where the motor is). By moving the fan away from the heat sink, he hopes to eliminate this dead (aka hot) spot.

Nobody likes the mirrors on my truck, not even me. I've almost run down pedestrians twice because they block my view. I called the dealer, they have smaller power mirrors available. $350 installed. If it would save me from buying a new car, it would be worth it. It wouldn't, of course, but I could use that argument to justify buying them. Then I thought I would check on E-bay. $9 for a pair. Of course I have to install them myself. And I have to figure out how to seal them. And I have to make a trip to the store for electrical connectors. And they have fake carbon fiber texturing painted on. I am about half way through the installation.

Hired a bookkeeper to keep track of our household expenses. I would spend all weekend avoiding doing it. It was getting ridiculous. She came in this morning and did in two hours what I have been stalling on for weeks.

Anne is getting ready to buy new furniture. Got new carpet and had the inside of the house painted this summer.

Work goes on. I have finally figured out that the powers that be do not have any idea what I do. So I don't worry much about getting anything done there anymore.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Wednesday

Took the family out to dinner at Bugattis last night. They were pretty well behaved. Johnny had a little trouble maintaining, but all in all it went pretty well. $120 all told. Brought a lot of food home. I ordered Pescatore, spaghetti with shrimp in marinara sauce. It was too hot (spicy). Matter of fact that was the only flavor. I only ate a small portion of it. Did not matter, other than I had to pay for it. There was plenty of other food. Anne, Kathryn and I ordered one slice of chocolate cake to split between us for dessert. I think I ended up eating most of it. Ross ordered one for himself, and I think he only ate the ice cream.

The laptop computer was a big hit. We tried watching Miami Vice on it for a bit, but the sound was a bit weak for the whole crowd. Anne and I took Miami Vice downstairs and finished watching the pilot.

Had an amazing drive to work this morning. Last stop before I got to work was the light on the corner of Jackson School Road and Evergreen Parkway. Had to gas it to make the light at the next corner, and slid through the ramp meter (there was no other traffic). Had to slow down for the corner at 217. Moved over a half lane when getting off the freeway to avoid running into a taxi. Barely made the light at the top of the off ramp. Might have been red by the time I got to the stop line. All the other lights were green. Next stop was the parking lot.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Monday

Woke up around 6:30am. Tried to sleep till 7, but ended up getting up about 15 minutes till. Had a bowl of cereal with blueberries, small glass of orange juice and a cup of decaffeinated tea for breakfast. Had a couple of chores to do: move the presents from the car, set out cash for Mohan (Johnny's guitar teacher), payed the credit card bills. Hope I am not too late. Left the house about 8:15.

Jack and I went to Buster's for lunch today. I had a brisket poorboy, a dish of potato salad and a glass of water. Penny is still a happy puppy, though Jack did get a notice in the mail from Multnomah county. One of his neighbors was complaining about Penny barking, so now she has to stay in the house when he is gone. So he put his wind chimes back up.

Roger stopped by this afternoon to troubleshoot the broken GHT's. Turns out there was a via that was not plated all the way through. I am not sure if this is fault of the board house (the company that made the bare circuit boards) or the assembly house (CB Ram, the company that placed and soldered all the components). It is surely Christopher's fault that we had to call Roger, but do we really care? No, not really. But it would have been simple enough to check to see if we were getting power to the power amp, and he didn't do that. I checked it on one of those that was sort of working, and I didn't see any trouble. I put test leads on the I and Q lines coming out of the filters, and with the voltage scale turned way down on the scope, I was able to get a small constellation. But then while I was looking for another micro clip, Roger showed up and took over. He brought a co-worker with him, a hydrologist by the name of Rod. Evidently they work together. Roger is the hands on kind of guy, I get the impression Rod is more theoretical. I introduced him to Keith, they seem to be two of a kind.

Picked Anne up at the transit center, drove to Sue's and picked up her gang and took them all to the Blue Hour bar downtown so they could celebrate Anne's 50th birthday, which is tomorrow. Stopped to gas up on the way to Sue's. Round trip took one hour and ten minutes.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Sunday

Very lazy day. Originally planned to car shopping again with Anne, but canceled that. I don't think she was very pleased, she was grumpy most of the day, but I think it was a good decision. She was able to get a some work done. I was pretty useless. Read Patrick O'Brian for most of the day (10 till 2) while Kathryn was baby sitting. Took a 2 hour nap. Kathryn came home while I was sleeping and took a nap herself.

Kathryn and I went out for a drive so she could practice. We did a couple of chores along the way. We went looking for Hyundai dealer to look at their medium size SUV's, but we couldn't find it. I think we drove right by it before we started looking. Then we went to Office Depot at Tanasbourne and bought a laptop computer and a wireless mouse for Anne's birthday, which is tomorrow(Tuesday). Long delay getting my credit card approved. Then to Fred Meyer's at Cornelius Pass to pick up the second season of Miami Vice. They were offering both seasons for $45, one season for $40. Already had season one, so I saved the five dollars.

Anne and I watched Inspector Morse on Mystery on PBS from 9 to 11. The show is tolerable, not one of my favorites, but there are no ads. Should have been doing my bookwork, but I didn't.


Saturday, August 5, 2006

Saturday

Went car shopping with Anne. Went to the Honda dealer in Beaverton. They have a very small lot right in the old downtown. They have a storage lot on Murray, I think, that has the bulk of their stock. Don't know if we can get in there or not. Looked at the Pilot and the CRV. I think Anne prefers the Pilot over the CRV, but unless she drives them I don't know. We will have to go back. Also went to the Mitsubishi dealer. They had a two wheel drive model that looked like a good deal. But I don't know it Anne will really be happy with it. She would probably be fine with it, but I am trying to avoid pushing my preferences on her. On the other hand, she doesn't want to spend any time on it, she just wants to buy one.

Stopped on the way home and looked at laptops at Office Depot. They had two with 17 inch screens for just under $1000. Either one would be fine, I think.

Went home, had lunch and took a two hour nap. Went driving with Kathryn. Drove South over Cooper mountain to Newburg, West to Yamhill, North to Forest Grove and then home.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Hey, good looking

Smart is very fine, but it cannot be compared to beauty or athletic ability. Well, okay, you could compare them, but it would not be a good comparison. The scales used to measure them are unrelated. If you are beautiful, you do not need to be smart. Smartness gives you a way to divert your mind from whatever problems you may have. I have a job that requires a certain amount of smarts and it keeps me occupied, at least some of the time. But given my druthers, I would rather be lying on the beach in Mexico drinking beer. That would get old after a while, but I am sure I could find some way to keep myself amused. So these jokes about dumb blonds are just smart/ugly people being jealous.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Eugene

Anne & I drove down to Eugene last weekend for parental orientation. Ross went with us to register for classes. We originally planned to drive down Saturday afternoon, but with one thing and another, we decided to go early Sunday morning instead. We had to get up at some unholy hour, but it was worthwhile because traffic was non-existent, which was nice. Weather was nice, sunny, even a bit warm. Got to walk around the campus, see some of the buildings and explore the student union, which was quite the conglomeration. I think it may be the biggest building on campus. There are two parts to it, and if you didn't know about it you might think they were two different buildings. There is the old, original brick building with the terrazzo floors, and new modern addition made of poured concrete, glass, and really large, laminated (rotten) wood beams for railings. The old part is composed of rectangular rooms, the new is composed of spaces, triangles, and ramps going every which way. Hmmph. Stayed at a motel across the main drag from the campus. Closer to the union than the designated parking area.

Stopped in Salem on the way back for lunch and to look at cars. Hertz has a big used car lot there and I had seen some ad's for 2005 Lincoln LS for $25,000 that I thought might be a good deal. We stopped at Shari's for lunch. As we were leaving, I asked the cashier if she new where this car lot was. Normally this would be a good example of why men don't ask for directions. I have asked for directions in the past, but the last few times this happened the person I asked had no idea what I was talking about, much less how to get there. So I had pretty much given it up. But I asked the cashier here, and, lo and behold! She not only knew what I was talking about, but was able to give me clear directions to get there. On top of that, they worked! It's a miracle!

The car lot had good variety of late model luxury cars, and most of them had correspondingly luxurious prices. We want to get a new car for Anne, but figuring what car to get is the problem. A car? A van? An SUV? My pick hit last week was a year old Lincoln LS. This week it's the new Mazda SUV (CX-7). One neighbor has a Passat, the other has a Volvo S-40. One of Johnny's friend's mom's has a Subaru Forester. One of Kathryn's friend's mom's has a Mercedes sedan of some sort. Her co-workers drive Lexus's (Lexii?). An Acura SUV might be nice, but my-o-my they want a lot of money for them.

We shall see.

Batteries

I have a video camera I bought 17 or 18 years ago. It doesn't work anymore. It broke once before and I spent a few hundred dollars getting it fixed. But it is broken again. And the battery is dead. This thing ate batteries like crazy, and they were expensive, fifty dollars each, if memory serves. I am loath to get rid of it, as I spent a small fortune to acquire it and I only made a few hours of recordings with it. No one besides me ever showed any interest in using it. Was there no interest, or was I forbidding? My preference would be to get it repaired and make some new batteries for it. The old batteries were just a fancy plastic case wrapped around some old nickel-cadmium AA cells. I would simple replace the internal batteries using newer rechargeable AA cells.

Occasionally someone in my family will voice some interest in a new, compact, video camera. Grumpy Chuck says "save your money".

I have a Makita rechargeable drill that I really like. I have two batteries for it. I keep the battery charger on my workbench in the garage.

I have an Black & Decker rechargeable drill that I really like, but it has been superseded by the Makita. The Makita is more powerful and the battery lasts longer. The B & D's battery is built in, which is a nuisance when it goes dead.

Anne, Ross and Kathryn have cell phones. They take care of their own charging problems.

I want a battery tester/dispenser/recycler. Someplace where you can dump your dead batteries, test you questionable ones, and pick up good ones. Perhaps a vending machine in your house serviced by the battery company.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

PC Design

For a long time I have thought that a computer case where everything could be accessed from the front would be ideal. I always hated having to crawl around and behind and underneath in order to hook up all the cables to a new computer.

Repeat: everything would be accessed from the front. Power cord, switches, cable connections, air flow in and out, removable media. The sides, top, bottom and back would all be solid. A bunch of machines like this could be stacked up against a wall and you could still have access to everything.

Further, for repairs, all of the guts could be mounted to some kind of chassis that would slide out of the case making it possible to add or replace components.

You would want any switches, lights and/or drives with removable media mounted up top so that hanging cables would not interfere with them.

You could add a cover for the front and the machine could be it's own shipping case. Putting some shock absorbers between the internal chassis and the box it is housed in means you could put the cover on and check it as luggage on an airliner. This would eliminate all the hassle of having to keep a shipping container and its' attendant foam packaging on hand, and having to pack and unpack the computer every time it was moved. Could be a big advantage for LAN parties.

I am thinking that a box about one foot wide by one foot deep by about a foot and a half tall would do.

I think a computer box like this would be very popular with some groups. Maybe with everyone. Space is getting more constrained all the time. Setup and hookup would be easier and the time required would be greatly reduced with this box. Some people won't like having fans blowing at them, but some kind of half cover/baffle that would cover everything up but still allow airflow and cable access could make this kind of box acceptable for desktop use.

I would like a computer box like this. I have thought about building one, but I haven't found the time.

Today: January 18, 2007

I just spent the last two days trying to set up an old PC at home so I could use it. It had some problems that necessitated opening the case, removing and reinstalling components, connecting and disconnecting cables. And then I get to work this morning and I see that "Coding Horror" is bitching about PC case design. I do not care what the case looks like, I only have a case because I need somewhere to put all the electronics. I would be just as happy if I did not need one at all. But since I like big screens and am too cheap to buy a new laptop, I put up with the case, but why can't all the connectors be on the front?

And while we are at it, surely someone can come up with a way of managing all those stinking cables? And do we really need stereo speakers? Wouldn't one decent high fidelity speaker do as well for most things? I deal with cables by putting the excess in a box. Let the cable go over the edge of the cable into a box. Leave all the excess in the box, only pull out as much as you need. You can use any kind of box you like, decorate any way you want, just no sharp edges.

So, to go along with my front-panel-only-computer-case, what I want is a long thin box that lies against the wall at the back of my desk where all the cables can hide. Maybe three inches high, three inches wide, and three feet long. The top would be a flip up lid. The top edge of the front side would have notches for cables. It should probably be a little bigger, maybe four or five inches wide to accommodate a power strip and all the little wall warts you need.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Obsession

Movies/Obsession

Anne & I watched "Matchpoint" Saturday night. Long drawn out tedious drama about obsession. Woody Allen, not his usual neurotic clumsy nebbish stuff.

Scott (owner of the company I work for) has hired a new lead engineer. I have been going over in my mind what I want to tell this guy, and it is getting old. He won't start for two weeks, and a lot can happen in two weeks. He may never start. But I keep going over this same stuff in my head and I am tired of it. Tired of obsessing.

The new guy promises to bring more than technical ability with him, so I am eager to see what he can do with the situation, if anything. I should be looking for a new job, and I do, sometimes, but I have not been putting in the effort I should. Partly because I am discouraged before I even start: any new job I get, my boss will probably be just as big a jerk as the one I have now, so why bother? Well, there might be more money.

I should have been out in the backyard digging up blackberry plants, but I managed to avoid remembering that until it was too late.

Johnnie's birthday was Friday, he turned 14. Anne and I took him and four of his friends to see the new Superman movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it struck the right tone, true to the original Superman TV shows I used to watch as a kid.

Linux

Last week I had two computers running Linux, one at work and one at home. Had the GUI interface, access to the internet. Things were good. Then I added a file sharing package to the one at work, and the GUI died. So now I am stuck with a command line interface until I figure out what went wrong.

Saturday I fired up my Linux box at home and the monitor was dead. Went to "Office Depot" to get a new one. They had only two CRT's and more than a dozen flat panel displays. The two CRT's were only 17 inches and cost $170. 17 inches is not big enough. I wanted a 19 inch CRT. It should be cheaper than a flat panel, but they can't be had. Ended up buying a 19" Viewsonic for $250. Filed for a $50 rebate. 8 ms response time, which Johnny told me was better. Necessary for any kind of video so you do not get ghosting. Some flat panel displays have 12ms or even 20ms response times, so you need to read the fine print.

TV

They also had a really wide screen with built in speakers that doubled as a TV for $600. It was tempting. I passed. It is bad enough that we have two TV's at home now. Nobody wants to watch what anybody else wants to watch. Anne & I watch some TV together, and Anne and Kathryn watch some shows together, but that is about it. The boys have their own interests.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Mud

Tuesday Verizon (the local phone company) was here to connect our house to the fiber optic cable they installed in our neighborhood a few months ago. They had to run a cable under the lawn, the driveway and the sidewalk to a the phone box on the side of the house.

Wednesday morning I wake up to Anne telling me that the sprinklers for the front bushes won't shut off. I go out to the garage and turn the electronic control off. No help. I unplug the controller from the wall. Sprinklers are still going. I go out to the box in the ground, pry open the lid and disconnect the wires to the valve. Still no help. Try the manual control on the value. No help. Go the main sprinkler valve box and open it up. It's full of water, but I know there is a manual valve in the bottom. I reach in. And in. And in. I am up to my shoulder lying in the mud before I can reach the valve. It closes and the sprinklers are off.

So the Verizon guys must have done something to the valve. I wonder what it was? They came out later on and fixed it, whatever it was.

After work Johnny and I go for a walk around the neighborhood. Down the hill in back of Glencoe High School we find a dock in the swamp. The swamp is pretty dry. The stream is about three feet wide and about one foot deep. In the winter it is about fifty feet wide and three feet deep. But right now there are muds flats alongside the stream. The mud is fairly solid, so we go exploring. We get about a hundred feet downstream, I forge through some grass to aovid crossing the stream. When I come back onto the mud flat I sink to my knees. Johnny had no problem, but then I weigh more that twice what he does. That was the end of that expedition.

Thursday the Verizon crew was back again to hook up the new high speed link inside the house. Family tells me it is working better (faster) than the old DSL line we had. So maybe we can remove the filters from our phone lines and sell them on E-bay.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Cake, Not Cake

Cake

Cake, cake, cake and more cake. There was a senior reception Tuesday night at Glencoe High School where they served cake and punch. Wednesday we had a cake at work for June birthdays. Thursday night was honors night. Friday night we held an open house. Sunday we went to a reception at our neighbor's house for their daughter who also graduated. That is five cakes in one week, and the icing was terrible on all of them. I hate to be wasteful, but I eventually gave it up and started cutting the icing off and leaving it and just eating the cake. You might say I should forgo the cake completely, what with my weight and my waist and all, but that is not going to happen. Cake is one of my favorite things, and I am not going to pass it up. I did limit myself to more than a couple of slices per day. I do not understand the icing thing, exactly. It is full of sugar, and very sweet, but I do not care for it, and most people I talk to do not care for it either. And it is thick! It is at least a quarter of inch everywhere, and around the edges, with the frills and all it can be an inch thick. Maybe it is just supposed to be for decoration, maybe you are not supposed to eat it. Maybe they make it taste bad deliberately. It is not that I do not like sweet things, one of my favorites is a can of Squirt brand sodee pop, gulped down in less than a minute. Quantities of sugar like this are not good for me, so I try to limit them. Success is a sometimes thing.

Cakes now come with cream filling. I am not too happy about this either. Plain cake would be just fine with me, no icing, no filling. Of course I would want about six large pieces all to myself. The filling is okay, not like the iciing, but it is certainly not necessary. What is it with these cake people anyway? They do use the icing for decoration with writing and pictures, but this all about image, not substance.

Not Cake

Tueday evening we went over to Glencoe to see Ross's photography project. There were about a dozen black and white photos in a display case with three hand written notes. The notes were complicated. There was a slide show in the auditorium, pictures of students.

Saturday morning my youngest son John ran in the Helvetia half marathon. Somewhere between two and three thousand people ran. Johnny came in fifth with a time of 2 hours and fifteen minutes. The leader came in at one hour and five minutes. Actually, Johnny came in fifth out of the nine in his age group (13 to 19 years old). The leader in his age group was a twelve year old that came in at one hour and forty five minutes. Wait a minute, the leader in the 13 to 19 age group was 12? What gives? He should not have been allowed in the race. Disqualify the rug rat! Move Johnny up to 4th out of 8!

Saturday afternoon we went to my oldest son Ross's graduation. They held it at a neighboring high shool. Supposedly they didn't have enough room at Glencoe, but to me it looked like there would have been plenty of room in the Glencoe gymnasium. Maybe they saved by not having to set up the stage twice. The president of the student class gave a speech and made a crack about the intelligence of President Bush that met with a roar of approval from the crowd. I was suprised that he made such a strong political remark, and further suprised that it met with so much approval. I would not have been suprised if there had been audible grumbling.

Saturday night was the all night Senior party, held at an undisclosed location. I still don't know where it was. Ross came home with a T-shirt that had a message written on it: "Most likely to win a Pulitzer prize". I was very pleased to see that. Means that I am not alone in thinking he has some writing talent.

Jack and Audrey Gray, my wife Anne's parents, flew in Wednesday afternoon for the festivities and stayed until Sunday. Jack got to play golf once, on Thursday, I think. I think they had a pretty good time, though I was a bit grumpy on Saturday. I think I was suffering from a low grade hangover. Too many Cosmopolitans Friday night.


Sound

We were talking about buying versus renting. Renting you get noisy neighbors. Why would a condo be any better? Possibly better construction. Most residential buildings up to three stories high are built of wood. Sound insulation between floors is non-existent. I think you will find that buildings made of concrete are much quieter. Beware though, they pour thin (two inches) concrete floors in wood apartment buildings to cut the sound transmission between floors, but it doesn't do much for the walls. Some places may build separate walls for adjacent apartments, but I don't know how well that works. How to tell if a building is made of concrete or not? Without building construction reports, or sound testing, I am not sure. But you might just try walking around in different buildings, on different floors, at different times, and see if you can develop a feeling for it. Read the fine print in the advertisements. They may say something about it. Beware of people who gloss over it and denigrate the subject.

You no doubt heard about the Welsh security company that is selling a device they call a mosquito that generates an annoying high pitched whine that only children can hear. Adults can't hear it. Keeps teenagers from hanging around the mall entrance. But now the kids are using it as a ring tone for their cell phones. They can get messages in class, and the teachers cannot hear the phone ringing.

I seem to have developed some tinnitus due to it being allergy season and my escutcheon tubes getting plugged. There is usually so much mechanical humming going on around me that I can't really tell what I am hearing. But my computer at home has developed a high pitched whine that seems to interfere with my tinnitus and it is really annoying. I suppose I will have to replace one of the fans, but which one? And if it is the one in the power supply, do I replace the fan, or the whole power supply? The whole power supply would be easier, but gol-durn it, there is nothing wrong with the power supply. Why should I have to replace it?

I got a set of new speaker for my computer a couple of months ago. $30. Housings are smaller, but it came with a a single woofer, and it does sound better.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Summary of the last year

My father was hospitalized around July 1st, 2005, after falling down. He spent a couple of months in the hospital, and then a couple of months in rehab and then moved to an adult foster care facility. He was well enough to come over to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. After that he deteriorated. He passed away January 16, 2006.

Sometime around August my brother Andy's wife got a job in Fairfield, Iowa and moved out, asking for a six month trial separation. She has now filed for divorce. Andy is a basket case. He was here for a few days last week and is now headed back to Iowa. He needs something to do, something else to focus on, but he has not been able to do that. Has not been able to do it for years. As near as I can tell, this is why his wife has filed for divorce.

My oldest son Ross applied to a couple of colleges and was accepted. Drexel in Philadelphia wanted $50,000 a year. He will be going to the University of Oregon in Eugene, a state school that we can afford. He wants a laptop computer to take to school. An Apple, loaded to the gills, costs $2800. Budget Computers, a local used computer shop, has laptops for $200. I am not sure what to do here. I am leaning towards the Apple for a couple of reasons. 1) I am sick of dealing with Windows. Maybe Apple is better. This happened once before. I bought a Mac thinking it would be better than a Windows machine. It wasn't. It was just as unreliable and flakey. Has anything changed? 2) $2800 is a heck of a lot less that $50,000.

Kathryn and some of her friends at school have been suffering with a hostile relationship with the star of the dance team. They were too polite, or too afraid, to say anything about it. The whole thing boiled over when they TP'd the star's house in the middle of the night last month. What a storm! Phone calls, conferences, meetings! Things finally settled down, and then we got our cell phone bill for last month: $150 in overtime! Normally our bill is $80. I think this a pretty good indicator of how much of an uproar they caused.

John, my youngest, is very active and very involved (track, zoo, paintball, building computers) and hasn't caused us any serious trouble, other than a trip to the ER for small cut in his eyebrow, which they super-glued together.

A couple of weeks ago the owner of the company took the engineering staff to lunch. This never happens. He tells us that our head engineer is leaving the company. The purpose of the lunch is so we can figure out how best to spin this so the company won't look bad! Yea gads! What an idiot! I am feeling sick to my stomach, I want to leave, but I do not want to walk the mile and half back to work. I think I will sit, and be diplomatic, and wait for a ride back to work.

The head engineer, Roger, my boss, is basically the guy holding this operation together. He knows a million details about our operations and our customers that nobody else knows. This is not good, but it is the way it is. You could look at it like this: our company is an old ship that has a lot of leaks. Roger is the guy who has been running around plugging all the leaks. This ship has been slowly sinking for years. Without Roger, and without drastic measures, this ship is going to sink. And the owner wants to talk about what color we should paint the ship. This goes on for a while, and then for a while longer, and I am starting to get impatient. The owner finally asks me a direct question, and I lose it. I let him have it with both barrels. The manager of the restaurant comes over to talk to me. I leave and end up walking back to work anyway. Of course now I am so steamed up the distance seems like nothing. Three days later the owner announces that there will be raises in June. This is the first time this has happened since he bought the company.

Other than that, I am fine.