Thursday, December 6, 2007

driving green

well emily and i took the plunge into the green world with a 2008 toyota prius.  our 1998 chevy malibu need some significant repair work, and we didn't necessarily want to throw too much money at it.  i didn't really want to buy a new car at first, but after looking around at the used market for awhile i got a little disenchanted with that option.  i really like the car and the features.  it drives great, obviously gets great mileage, has good visibility, and it comes with some pretty neat features like:
  • smart key - you don't have to insert a key into the door or the car to start it, just being nearby is good enough
  • backup camera - when you put the car in reverse, you can see what is behind you via a camera on the back of the car
  • great driver controls on the steering wheel for radio, climate control, etc
  • good storage for a small car
we also took a look at some of the other hybrids out there like the civic, camry, altima, etc, but the prius was the most efficient, affordable, proven, and fun out of all the options.  this is my first new car, so i'm enjoying that.  i hope more people jump on the hybrid band-wagon.  there's really not a good reason not to for most people in my opinion.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

iPhone post-activation bliss

i had a terrible experience getting the iphone to activate.  it turns out it was a defective unit and i got in touch with a manager at the at&t store that sold me the iphone the day before, and he agreed to waive the 10% restocking fee and replace my unit.  that was after 5 hours of pain and 3 trips to at&t.  worst case i would have had to send the phone to apple for a warranty repair, even after never successfully being able to activate it!  so one word of advice, if you are considering buying an iphone, you're probably better off doing it at an apple store, which was the conventional wisdom i knew before.  i just never expected it to be an issue still in october, so i ignored what i had heard.  the brand new replacement unit i received worked perfectly out of the box.

now that i've been an iphone user for 5 days, i'm really smitten with it.  it's been great to have on several occasions to kill time where i was forced to wait.  i know have lots of music and several podcasts always with me and a good browser experience and push yahoo mail.  i'm also encouraged by the announcement to open the platform to developers.

i still have had a couple of minor pain points.  i don't like being limited to 200 text messages with the default rate plans.  how silly.  unlimited data, but limited text messages?  i'm just going to start encouraging everyone to send me email instead.  i've had one or 2 instances where the phone has become unresponsive to my screen taps momentarily, but it's too early to say what that was all about.  overall, i'm extremely happy now that i'm up and running.

Monday, October 15, 2007

iPhone activation hell

so i bit the bullet and got an iphone today.  what i expected to be an absolutely painless and easy activation experience has been absolutely terrible.  itunes does not recognize that i need to activate my iphone and i've been on the phone with at&t and apple for 3+ hours tonight.  the current assertion is that the sim card may be at fault and that i need to get a new one from at&t.  i'll have to wait to try that until tomorrow.  i must say that once you finally get a person on the phone, both at&t and apple did try to troubleshoot and were friendly.  however, given that i started this journey at 8:00 pm CST, i'm disappointed that i spent so much of the time on hold.  it's also very apparent that there are two distinct companies involved in my experience, each one referring me to the other at various times in the night.  i finally got to the back-line specialist from apple who assured me that this is extremely rare and something she hasn't seen since the launch.  somehow that doesn't make me feel much better.  i'm frustrated, aggravated, and angry that i've wasted an entire evening on the activation and it is unlikely that i'll see any compensation for my poor experience.  if it were june i'd understand, but part of the reason i waited for october was to avoid something like this.  let's hope this gets better.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

record companies optional?

i bought radiohead's new album this week and got it delivered as a 40-something megabyte zip file full of DRM-free mp3's.  and now madonna, nine inch nails, oasis, jamiroquai and others are following the trend.  this has to have the industry in a state of panic.  if they aren't then, they should be.  i'm sure that they still feel like they have a stranglehold on a lot of typical distribution control (radio+mtv), but imagine if social networks start flipping that on it's head.  there's been rumors of a big new set of features for music on facebook.  just imagine if/when radio becomes less relevant towards artist discovery, and it's based on recommendations from social networks.  that time is almost here and it's going to get very interesting.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

getting things done, etc

i have my own non-formal productivity system that works for me for the most part.  i feel like i could be more efficient, but it's not something that i get depressed about or am that hard on myself about.  i think it's part of my personality not to be overly structured.  but in case i ever feel like it, my friends patrick and kelly would be my go-to-guys.  here are a couple of links that patrick uses.

100 Tips to Improve Your Life

Thursday, September 6, 2007

vanity fair looks back on the coverage of gore in 2000

my wife subscribes to vanity fair and i've enjoyed many of the articles recently.  when i read this article online about the way the media covered al gore's 2000 campaign, i have to say it really stings.  i have to admit into falling into the media trap, at one point chanting "internet" as a joke as gore's float moved by during the st. patties day parade in chicago.  i was informed and knew that he had been misquoted, but somehow allowed myself to participate in the caricature anyway.  it's absolutely amazing how on-point gore has been about so many issues over his career.  take for example his sponsorship of the bill's that paved the way for government funding of the internet, his environmental advocacy, or his opposition to the war giving his important and unpopular at the time speech against the war in 2002 before the invasion.  i have no idea what the state of american government would be in if gore were president, but it's fun and sad to imagine. who else imagines what if?  i know david soutor does.
looking forward to 2008, it's interesting to check out how the candidates really stack up to your positions on politics.  obama is my guy and i swear i didn't stack the outcome!  check out to see where you stand yourself.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

JXplorer - Free LDAP Utility

so i wrote a blog entry on dev2dev about using OpenLDAP with WebLogic Server and a very nice reader pointed me to JXplorer.  It is a very handy free LDAP browser that is more intuitive than the out of date u.s. government provided browser mentioned on my entry, that also has limitations with export apparently.
here are some screenshots that show the configuration screen and the resulting object browser that has both an html view and a table view.  very handy.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

my simpsons character

one of my colleagues pointed me to which generates what you would look like as a simpsons character.

the movie / burger king has done a pretty good job of making a viral web tool here.  this in combination with their efforts to actually brand certain real brick and mortar stores as kwik-e-marts is taking the marketing to an entirely new level.  with the simpsons, people can excuse such shameless marketing because they're funny and they get some slack, but i can imagine some brands trying to do this wouldn't get the same amount of leeway.  in fact, if not done correctly, this type of marketing could potentially do more harm than good if there would be a big negative reaction because of a backlash.  as far as the movie goes, i haven't seen it.  i'll probably wait for video on this one.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

search utility - locate32

so my buddy john was telling me about this handy utility called locate32 that has ported the locate linux/unix utility to the windows platform.  john has used google desktop search and microsoft desktop searches before, but finds that doing simple searches are difficult with those tools and that the indexes take up lots of space with a big index that always needs to be run.  i actually use microsoft desktop search on my laptop now and find it very useful because most of the items i search for are in email and it integrates very nicely with outlook.  john's use-cases are slightly different though and he usually knows some basic criteria such as file type, size, creation date, directory structure that the simple index is based on.  i must agree that i've often missed files with the ms search and have to launch the search companion, which takes a few clicks and isn't indexed, so it takes longer.  another use case this tool can be used for is for searching non-local archives (dvd's or unattached drives) that are indexed locally.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

who killed the electric car

emily and i watched who killed the electric car last night.  i really enjoyed it.  i had some depressed thoughts that crossed my mind in terms of lost opportunity for the american auto-makers and the powerful industries and government forces that suppressed this technology for their self-interest.  my friend kelly had commented in my post on health care about how we should all look in the mirror and realize that we're all part of the problem with respect to health care.  he made the point that many of us have retirement investments that indirectly invest in these powerful industries and expect a nice return on our investment.  in a sense, many americans are greedy stock-holders in many of the companies they do not directly support.  in this case, it is big-oil instead of health-care, but the point is similar.  i see his point but still disagree with the crux of the matter.  while i might benefit to some small degree by the success of pharmaceutical companies or big-oil, my realized benefit is many orders of magnitude smaller than the corporate executives and politicians that are taking huge cuts of the profits.  it seems like a terrible pyramid scheme in which politicians and companies are mucking with the free market and demand by leveraging regulations that are not in the interest of consumers, but are in their interest.  consumers still need to take accountability for not forcing the issue enough and with all of the easy access to knowledge that the internet provides, i hope these kinds of situations are harder to repeat themselves in the future.  the problem is that corporate and government interests are strong forces that might be up for meeting this new challenge as well.  let's be honest here, if gm had marketed the ev1 the way the tesla guys are marketing theirs, we'd all have electric cars.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

think: another electric car

i just read this cnn money article about a new electric car concept.  it's actually not all that new, since ford experimented with it for several years.  however, the concept has been retooled to take advantage of new developments in both energy technology and consumer web concepts.  they're getting some advice from the google founders, so that can't hurt.  i really like the idea of a smart car, prius, or electric car as a commuter car.   it makes perfect sense for a family to have 1 of these vehicles for commuting to a local job and to have a more typical larger vehicle for hauling the whole family as well as all the stuff we buy.  the key thing to get adoption in the u.s. will be safety and speed.  if americans can't drive 75 mph on the interstate and feel safe, then they probably won't adopt this.  but it would still serve a very large niche of urban commuters that don't have much interstate travel.

Monday, July 30, 2007

another mind-boggling 60 minutes segment

awhile back i posted a clip from 60 minutes on the state of our fiscal irresponsibility in the u.s.  i believe that some sort of spending limits need to be enacted and enforced on our lawmakers that are running up the bill for future generations.  the prescription drug bill was mentioned as the worst example of this out-of-control spending.  just watch the segment and see if you do not feel the same way.  i can't believe the senators that blocked the bill to renegotiate prices can face their constituents.  there should be riots in the streets.  every time i pay a medicare tax, too much money is going straight to the pharmaceutical industry just because medicare does not negotiate the prices.  it's absolutely disgusting.

Friday, July 20, 2007

steak night!

about once a quarter a group of my buddies get together for a nice steak, and last night was the night at ruth's chris steak house downtown chicago.  what a great night it was.  great food and lots of laughs as we talked about a wide range of subjects including bathroom habits.  sometimes it feels really good to be a primitive guy.

Monday, July 16, 2007

sicko and health care

emily and i went to sicko last week.  it was a very thought-provoking film that i recommend to anyone.  even if you don't like michael moore, you should put that aside and check out the ideas and stories discussed with an open mind.  the thing that struck me as one of the most powerful points is that our system is fundamentally motivated by different objectives than canada, the united kingdom, and france.  their motivation is "maximize health" and that's how those systems are judged.  our system mandate is "maximize profit".  so given those 2 very different motivations, it's no wonder that we have issues.  i'm not anti-business, but unless we are able to change our system such that companies profit by maximizing health, then we will never reach our potential and our system will lag behind the others that are chartered that way.

another compelling side story to this is a piece done by 60 minutes on the nature of our deficit and how it relates to our health care costs.  i highly encourage you to check out this story.  every citizen should be obligated to understand the concepts here as it may be more important to grasp this than any other issue.  it's probably more important than terrorism, crime, taxes, or any other typical issue we are presented with in politics.

Monday, July 2, 2007

utility crush - JDiskReport

my buddy bill witchger put me on to this handy disk space utility called JDiskReport.  i'm a big fan.  after running out of space this morning, i was quickly able to find the offending files clobbering up my drive and able to get rid of them.  it's very easy to navigate to find your largest files.  so intuitive you'll never need to ask anyone how to use it.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Callie and Iggy

our australian shepard is quite intimidated by this brave bird. check out this youtube video by our dog-sitter.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Kelly and Amanda's Wedding

well kelly and amanda tied the knot at gross pointe / detroit this weekend and we were there to witness it. it was my first time to the detroit area and it was a fantastic weekend in terms of atmosphere, weather, celebration, etc. the photos are up on picasa, so check them out.

  • random thoughts:
    • the detroit airport is pretty crappy, reminds me of midway before the renovation 5+ years ago
    • the downtown area of detroit by the renaissance center / gm buildings is really nice
    • casinos right in the middle of downtown and underage drinking so accessible in nearby windsor probably gives that city a strange dynamic to the under-21 crowd
    • it's really fun to see your good friends very happy

Sunday, June 3, 2007

new hosting company - dailyrazor

i bit the bullet and decided to go with an external hosting provider, dailyrazor, that i found with google.
i was very impressed with the simple setup.  i'll be able to run tomcat5 with mysql, which was my minimum requirement.  it'll run about $10+ a month.
in the past i'd always used dyndns and hosted things on my home machine, but i've always had availability issues.  my uptime is probably around 5% given that my wife always puts that computer to sleep!  actually, it's probably a good thing in that my old dell machine is loud and runs hot.  using a shared hosting environment feels like the right thing to do.

Windows Live Writer Test

i'm really impressed with windows live writer.  very intuitive and well done tool that takes the complexity and tediousness out of creating blog entries.


i'm going to give Blogger a go and see if i can't get in the habit of blogging regularly. i'll probably use this blog to post on politics, pop-culture, sports, books, movies, etc. most of this is probably for selfish reasons to catalog some of my thoughts on things and look back on them later, but there may be some folks interested in some of the drivel i put up here.

i watched the democratic debate tonight on cnn. i thought barack and edwards did pretty well. clinton did alright also, but i feel like some of her answers (not all) were more rehearsed than the others (because they are). biden sure got animated a few times! cnn keeps patting themselves on the back for the format, but i thought it was awkward when they went to the crowd. it took them awhile to get their feet under them. also, cnn sure had a rough a/v night. the mics were always not balanced right or the wrong mic would catch stuff happening off screen.

lebron james's performance against detroit in games 5 and 6 were incredible, simply put. can't believe he's still in his lower 20's and so dominant.

the cubs are really in a trough with the fight and lou getting ejected and suspended. nowhere to go but up and they still aren't in that bad of shape in the standings. i just can't imagine it getting much worse than this.

emily and i are going to vegas next weekend, so it should be fun to get in a little poker while the series is going on.